Looks like all the momentum from that 7-2-2 run is gone now
ST PAUL, Minn. — So much for that strong finish.
The Edmonton Oilers wanted to make a point of hitting the finish line hard this season, salvaging some pride in a disastrous campaign and maybe giving fans a taste of what next season might be like.
Let’s hope that isn’t the case, that next season isn’t at all like what we’re seeing right now.
The Oilers lost their fifth game in a row Monday, 3-0 to the Minnesota Wild. It capped off a 0-3 road trip that began with a 2-1 loss in Vancouver followed by a 3-2 loss in Calgary.
Before that came a 7-4 loss to Columbus and a 5-4 loss to the Los Angeles Kings.
Looks like all the momentum from that 7-2-2 run is gone now.
It doesn’t matter much with only two games left in the season, but it is yet another Oilers goal that will go unreached this year.
“We definitely had opportunities to make this a good road trip,” said winger Milan Lucic. “But we didn’t do it in Vancouver when we had a really good start, didn’t do it in Calgary and once again here. It was an opportunity to have a good road trip, and we were unable to do that.”
Things were grooving and the mood was positive and upbeat when the Oilers were putting together that nice little run of theirs. They had something to feel good about.
They were playing spoilers, beating some good teams and cheering on their captain as he made a push for the Art Ross and Hart trophies.
But they’ve let that energy slip away, and as the season winds down and the losses pile up, human nature takes over and it’s hard to pull out of the dive.
They’ve lost five in a row, and the captain who’d been carrying them for that 7-2-2 stretch has one point and is minus-four in the last three games.
It looks like they’re running out of emotional gas here.
“The emotional part of it is fair to say,” said head coach Todd McLellan. “They know there’s a finish line, (even though) the finish line is not rewarding. You fall behind, you feel like you don’t get a break, you miss a net and it takes a little out of you. We should be more resilient than we are right now but we’re not.
“We’re going home, we have to push hard for two.”
The usual suspects came back to haunt them again in this loss. The power play went 0-for-nine on the trip and finishes the season with a grand total of 11 goals in 41 road games. They have just three power-play goals in the last 24 road games.
We should be more resilient than we are right now but we’re not.
It might not have killed them in Minnesota, but it certainly didn’t join the fight.
Down 2-0 early in the third period, they had what could have been a game-turning man advantage. They almost gave up a shorty and barely even managed to set up in the zone.
“We’re unable to gain some momentum, or anything, off the power play,” said Lucic. “And the rest of the period kind of followed after that.”
With the Oilers down two defencemen (Andrej Sekera and Yohann Auvitu) Edmonton spent the entire third period hemmed in their own zone as the Wild swarmed them mercilessly. They were outshot 21-3 and looked as deflated as they have all year.
“They found a way to win and we couldn’t solve (Devan) Dubnyk,” said defenceman Darnell Nurse. “That’s the way it goes. I thought we battled hard tonight.”
McLellan knew his team didn’t have much left physically or mentally in the final period, not that it was especially hard to tell.
“We didn’t gain any momentum from (the power play) and when we lost the two defencemen halfway through the second, we ran out of gas a little bit and spent more time in our end,” he said. “You have to give (Minnesota) credit. They smelled blood and went after it.”
Had the Oilers managed to finish on one of their 11 shots in the third period, or on one of their power plays, it might have energized the bench, but they couldn’t score themselves back to life.
“We didn’t have many chances, so when we did have the few that we had (and don’t capitalize) it comes back and it haunts you,” said McLellan. “It kills momentum and any energy you might have at the back-end of a road trip.
“You get short-staffed, and it just seems like you’re skating in mud. The passes aren’t really accurate, they’re bouncing around, the other team gets energized and you’re fighting an uphill battle.”
On Twitter: @Rob_Tychkowski