December 1, 2011
Another Wild ride for Oilers
By TERRY JONES, QMI Agency
EDMONTON - It’s an expression the average fan can’t wrap their minds around.
“It’s like we’re afraid of winning,” said head coach Tom Renney after the Oilers took the lead for the fifth game in a row and lost their third in a row.
“The responsibility of winning is that you have to keep doing it,” he said.
“You have to look at creating that outcome no matter what. You can’t be afraid of it. You have to play to win, not to lose.
“We had a two-goal lead. And then we gave up one in the second period and it was like we went ‘Oh Geez.’ ”
You can look at the shootout that decided it, the shootout which gave Minnesota a 3-2 lead to keep them in first place in the Western Conference.
After ending a 17-game losing streak in Minnesota, the Oilers now have lost all three shootout games against the Wild this year.
So obviously the curse hasn’t been cured.
“You look at the three shootout games against Minnesota alone and that’s the difference between being in the playoffs and where we are,” said Jordan Eberle of the team which sits 10th.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Eberle staked the Oilers to a 2-0 lead. The Nuge firing a one-timer off a first rate feed from Andy Sutton and then RNH making the play to Eberle.
“It wasn’t the shootout,” said Eberle of the penalty shot competition which went six rounds and 12 players deep before being settled this time.
“It was letting it get to that point. It was all the stuff before the shootout. When it got to that point, then it’s just up for grabs. When you get into a shootout, that’s a crap shoot.
“We’re better than that,” he said.
Nugent-Hopkins, who now has now moved up into a tie for fifth with 27 points with 11 goals and 16 assists in 25 games while Eberle moved into a tie for seventh with 26 points on nine goals and 17 assists, had the crowd going and the Oilers going forward until, inexplicably, in the second period, they stopped.
“They’re the kind of team that sits back in the weeds waiting for you,” said Nugent-Hopkins, of his early education.
“We had the 2-0 lead and we should have kept doing what we were doing. But they wait to pounce on it. And that’s exactly what they did.”
Sam Gagner, who is finally starting to grow back into his game again, said it’s the same old story with this young team.
“Minnesota just does a very good job waiting to catch us sleeping.
“Every time they do that, they score.
“In the second period, we stopped being heavy and our intensity dropped a bit.”
Which is all in there somewhere when Renney talks about being afraid to win.
“We started to back off when we needed to go after it.”
Some may figure that it’s coaching strategy there, to try to nurse a two-goal or a one-goal lead home, but that’s definitely not the case here.
“What really matters is that we let it get away from us.”
He said if you go back to the start of the season when the Oilers were up at the top of the tables and playing with the joy of hockey, there was something different.
“If a team tied it up, we didn’t care.
“We’ve got to get back to that.”
On one hand he said it’s fantastic what the Edmonton fans are watching here with Nugent-Hopkins and Eberle so far this year. But there’s a bigger picture, too.
“The beauty of it is that Edmonton Oilers fans are watching these guys grow up in front of their eyes,” he said.
But on night’s like Wednesday, beauty was in the eye of the beholder as long as you didn’t look at the scoreboard on your way out of the rink.