UNIONDALE, N.Y. - Considering the way things have transpired, the Edmonton Oilers are probably happy to see the calendar year come to an end.
Especially considering things are starting to look eerily similar to last year.
On Saturday, the Oilers ended 2011 by losing 4-1 to the New York Islanders and dropping further out of the playoff race.
“I thought we had good energy, we had good pace in the first period, I thought we were engaged,” said Oilers head coach Tom Renney. “I thought we were physically involved and we became a little unglued as the game went on. We took some bad penalties and our specialty teams let us down.
“But as a team, I thought we became less engaged and we had less ability to do what we needed to do to be a good, winning hockey club.”
John Tavares, Matt Moulson, PA Parenteau and Matt Martin scored for the Islanders, while Sam Gagner responded with his fourth of the season for the Oilers.
Gagner had a Corey Potter shot bounce off him and into the net past Islanders goaltender Evgeni Nabokov in the first period to tie the contest 1-1.
“We got away from the things that we need to do to be successful,” Gagner said. “We turned pucks over. When we were playing in their end, we were pretty successful and we got away from that and it cost us.”
Oilers goaltender Devan Dubnyk had an off day, giving up four goals on nine shots before bouncing back with a strong third-period performance, where the Oilers were out-shot 16-8.
The Islanders scored on the first shot of the game as Tavares picked up a loose puck to the right of the crease on the power play and deposited it into an empty net.
In the second period, Parenteau beat Dubnyk on the man advantage with a long wrist shot from the top of the circle, while Martin bounced a bad-angle shot off the Oilers goaltender 46 seconds later. Moulson had scored in the first converting a great feed from Tavares.
“That was a bad goal, it didn’t catch me by surprise,” said Dubnyk of Martin’s marker. “I was ready for him to take the shot, I just went with one pad down and it hit the inside of my blocker, went off my hip and shot across the line.
“It was a bad goal for sure, it was tough to give that one up.”
Ben Eager had a tough afternoon as well, taking a trio of penalties – two that the Oilers were unable to kill – then getting a 10-minute misconduct for venting his frustration before being stapled to the bench.
Eager’s first-period roughing penalty resulted in Tavares’s opening goal, while Parenteau connected in the second period with the Oilers winger in the box.
Eager had taken exception to Martin’s hit on Ladislav Smid in the corner and challenged the Islanders’ winger to fight. However, despite having six fights this season, Martin refused to drop the gloves and Eager was assessed a roughing minor.
“There is a situation in the game where they have the lead and why would they fight? You have to understand what point in the game is, what the circumstances are and how best to help your team,” said Renney. “Unfortunately he made the choice he did, and it didn’t work out for us, obviously.”
The two second-period goals gave the Islanders control of the fast-paced contest that featured the last three first-overall picks in the NHL Entry Draft in Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Taylor Hall and Tavares.
In the first period the three kept trying to one-up each other. And had it not been for a couple of shots off the crossbar, Hall would have made a contribution on the scoreboard as well.
“It was a bit of a track meet in the first period,” said Renney. “I really felt they (Hall, Nugent-Hopkins) looked good. I like the energy, I liked the pace, I like the way they were attacking and certainly from our point of view, if we could have come out and tidied up a few things, I really thought we were in good shape to win the hockey game.
“Ultimately what happened is we got behind, it became turnover city and that became contagious. You can’t win games turning the puck over and trying to do things by yourself.”
The Oilers now move on to Chicago for their fourth consecutive road game, facing the Blackhawks on Monday. They’ll finish the trip with stops in Buffalo Tuesday, St. Louis Thursday and Dallas Saturday.
“We played well in Vancouver and Minnesota, we’ve played well enough to win,” said Renney. “Today we started that way, but we weren’t able to sustain it. If I have any fear at all (going forward) is where our energy level and our commitment to do our detail of the game is and can we pull ourselves up by the bootstraps and get ready for the Chicago Blackhawks?”