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Oilers keep digging deeper holes

Ottawa Senators' Jesse Winchester (18) scores a goal against Edmonton Oilers' goalie Devan Dubnyk...

Ottawa Senators' Jesse Winchester (18) scores a goal against Edmonton Oilers' goalie Devan Dubnyk during their NHL hockey game in Edmonton November 17, 2011. (REUTERS/Dan Riedlhuber)

Roberty Tychkowski, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:09 AM ET

There's a famous quote that's been a mainstay of many frustrated Edmonton Oilers coaches over the years: When you're in a hole, quit digging.

In periods and games and seasons in which things went from bad to worse for this franchise, begging players to stop compounding the situation is an almost constant sermon.

Well, there must still be a sale on shovels somewhere because when the Oilers have run into the first spot of trouble lately. They've been throwing up enough dirt to make a grave digger proud.

Score on them once and it's usually 2-0 before they even finish announcing the goal.

"That's a sign of inexperience," said captain Shawn Horcoff. "We don't respond well."

No they don't.

Three times in the last four Oilers losses they had barely fished the first puck out of their net when they were wondering how the second one got there.

The Ottawa Senators scored their first two goals nine seconds apart on Thursday, the Blackhawks scored their first two goals 34 seconds apart on Sunday and Boston scored its first two goals 104 seconds apart last Thursday.

"When it's 2-0 you think you have to go on the offence, that you have to catch up right away," said defenceman Tom Gilbert. "That's not how it works. Teams will sit back and wait for you to do something wrong and make a mistake.

"We just have to understand that if we get scored on and things aren't going our way, stick to our game plan. When you start doing things that are outside your box it doesn't help at all. That's when teams expose your weaknesses."

Running around like maniacs trying to tie it up on the next shift is usually what gets the Oilers in a deeper hole.

"You've got guys pressing and squeezing their sticks a little bit, looking for offence when it should be the opposite, being a little bit more patient and waiting for our opportunities," said Horcoff. "We're not a team that can turn it on and score goals. At least not right now. We need to be patient and wait for our opportunities."

This goes against the grain for young players like Tayor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who've spent their entire careers turning games around with dazzling individual efforts. But then again, this isn't junior.

"I'm guilty of it as well, trying to make an extraordinary play because we're trying to get our team back in the game," said Jordan Eberle. "You care so much that you're almost hurting the team.

"You turn the puck over and before you know it they score three goals. We have to stick to the game plan as far as chipping it in, working the cycle and even if we don't score, keep sticking to it and eventually it'll come. It's definitely a lesson learned."

Not that there isn't room for skill and creativity, just maybe not at the opposition blueline when you're staring at a couple of veteran NHL defenders.

"There's a time and a place," said Eberle. "If you're in the corner and can beat a guy to the net, it's a great play, you're beating a guy one on one. But if you're trying a one-on-two at the blueline, that's something that's just unrealistic. I don't know if anyone in this league can do that. The defenceman are just that good."

roert.tychkowski@sunmedia.ca

@SUN_TYCHKOWSKI


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