SUN Hockey Pool

Oilers comeback incomplete

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:38 AM ET

EDMONTON - The team is crowded with rookies, they just lost their most important player, they were losing the game anyway and hey, there's nothing wrong with another lottery pick.

In short, there were all kinds of reasons for the Edmonton Oilers to find themselves a soft spot on the canvas and ride this one out in the fetal position.

And judging from their first 20 minutes without Ryan Whitney, out anywhere from a month to the rest of the season with an ankle injury, they were tempted.

The Oilers were down 3-0 and couldn't have been more lifeless if they'd married a Heisman Trophy winner.

But from the ashes of that hapless opening frame rose hope that the rest of this season might not be as bad as so many expect. The Oilers showed there's still some fight in the room, storming back with three goals to force a shootout, where all-purpose defenceman don't matter.

Ironically, that's where they lost it, 4-3, but grabbing a point from what was shaping up to the an epic, blowout loss seemed consolation enough.

"If you look at where we were after the first, to say that we came out with a point is a good feeling," said Sam Gagner, who liked the spirit of the evening, but has seen enough moral victories lately. "A lot of character was shown to get that point, it's a good feeling. But you don't want to get down in a game and obviously we have to find ways to win shootouts."

The first game without Whitney, Edmonton's team leader in points, plus-minus, ice time and just about everything else that matters, began the way everyone was afraid it might -- a giant cluster puck of uncovered Avs, uncleared rebounds, lost battles and a flood of goals against.

By the end of the opening 20 minutes it was looking more like Canada-Norway than anything resembling an Oilers team on the rise -- 1-0 Avs at 3:33, 2-0 at 12:01 and by the time it got to 3-0 at 14:49, all six Oilers defencemen had been on for a goal against.

Before the roof had a chance to completely fall in on them, though, head coach Tom Renney had a video session/pep talk between periods that clearly hit home.

"We just felt like we gave them a little too much in the first, and we're a better team than that," said Cogliano. "We didn't panic. We came into the room and had a good talk with Tom, talked about positives, looked at what happened on the goals. We noticed what we did wrong and we fixed it."

"He didn't call anybody out and he wasn't negative," added Sam Gagner. "We did feel like a different team in the second period and third and it showed in the fact we were able to come back."

Edmonton cut the lead to 3-1 on a goal by Taylor Hall and had Colorado on the ropes by the end of the second period.

"We told ourselves that we have to keep going, this could be a really good character win," said Hall, who was minus 7 with zero points in his previous seven periods before finding another gear in the final 40 minutes. "It was there for the taking, we knew we just had a couple of lapses that they scored on and if we played well we had a chance to get back in the game, and we did."

The momentum carried into the third period, where Ales Hemsky cut it to 3-2 two minutes in. Three minutes after that, Cogliano buried a Hemsky feed to make it 3-3.

"That's exactly what we have to do, we showed a lot of character coming back," said Cogliano. "At the end of the day we needed to step up. When we needed the goals we got them, it's just too bad we couldn't get the final one to get the big win."

Follow me at Twitter.com/TYCHKOWSKI


Photos