PHOENIX - Wandering the desert, they were.
There might as well have been vultures circling the Edmonton Oilers Thursday night for all the life they showed against the Phoenix Coyotes.
The Oilers, recharged and coming off four days rest, had absolutely no pulse whatsoever in losing 4-2 to a team on a three-game losing streak that played the night before on the road.
They started bad, and stayed there all night.
"Maybe at the drop of the puck," said head coach Tom Renney, when asked where it all started to go horribly wrong. "We were not nearly as engaged as we needed to be. We relied on our goaltending early and only had two of four lines doing anything productively."
The passion and intensity meters were both stuck at zero for thae entire 60 minutes as the Oilers were outshot 42-20 in falling to 2-6-1 in their last nine.
When you're two points out of a playoff spot, playing one of the teams directly ahead of you, getting fired up shouldn't be a problem, but the Oilers had all the spark of used dish rag.
"The competitiveness has to be there, it has to start with that," said Renney. "The player has to conjure up the proper emotion. There's a emotional and physical connection to the game and unless you're willing to pay the price and make that part of your repertoire as a team "¶ we need that and we can't leave it to so few."
The Sam Gagner, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle trio was a train wreck at even strength, going minus eight between them
On a night when the stats guys were giving out "hits" like Halloween candy (70 in total), Shawn Horcoff and Ales Hemsky combined for one, and one shot.
"I did not think this was going to happen tonight," said Renney. "I thought we had three really good practices. We had some good performances, but not near enough to win a hockey game."
The slumping Coyotes, challenged before the game by head coach Dave Tippett, answered by making an example of the Oilers. The Oilers, on the other hand, had no answer.
"A little flat, for sure," said Tom Gilbert. "Slow start, a lot of turnovers, system play wasn't good. We couldn't ask for more from our special teams, but five on five we have to be better.
"After the break we had we were looking for more energy and we definitely didn't give that in the first period."
Despite losing the night before in Anaheim, Phoenix controlled the first period, up 12-4 on the shot clock when Lauri Korpikoski put them ahead 1-0.
It was even worse in the second, with Edmonton spending most of it hemmed in their own zone trying to fend off the Phoenix forecheck.
After Hall tied it against the flow at 16:02, Phoenix simply scored another one at 18:53. When that was disallowed on a blown call, they simply scored another one 19:23.
When Hall tied it again in the third, Phoenix simply scored another one five minutes later.
"That was kind of the story," said Ryan Jones. "It seemed like when we need to come out and ride the momentum after a goal, they pushed us more than we wanted to go. That's something we have to fix inside the lockerroom."
The Yotes sealed it with one of the worst goals you'll ever see, a long wrister that would have been stopped by a bag of flour, but there's no blaming Devan Dubnyk for the loss on a night when the shots were 42-20.
On the bright side, Taylor Hall, in his first game back after missing three weeks with an injured shoulder, was the best Oiler.
"It's nice to chip in any way you can, but as a team that's not the effort we want," said Taylor Hall, one of the few players left in a dressing room that cleared out in a hurry. "We know that we have a lot better."