EDMONTON - Goals by Chris Stewart, Alex Steen and TJ Oshie, along with 19 saves by Jaroslav Halak, propelled the St. Louis Blues to a 3-0 shutout win over the Oilers Saturday night at Rexall Place.
With the loss, the Oilers dip below the .500 mark with an 11-12-7 record after collecting four of eight points (1-1-2) on this most recent homestand. The club now goes back out on to the road with back-to-back games in Nashville and St. Louis.
"It's very disappointing," said an under-the-weather Head Coach Ralph Krueger post-game. "We played right into their hands. It was a dream road game for them because we made it easy on them.
"We need to work on playing the game we need to play to be successful in the Western Conference here at home. With the proper result today, we would have all been smiling -- but this (loss) dominates today."
Combined with a win by Dallas Stars, the Oilers maintain their 13th-place position in the West, four points back of a playoff spot. In the remaining 18 games, the Oilers have 10 at Rexall Place.
"Losing to St. Louis is not the problem," said Krueger. "The problem is if we lose this way."
"We've had good games at home and we feel comfortable playing here," added Taylor Hall, who did not record a shot on goal in the loss. "When a team comes in our building like this and they push us around, it's not good for us, it's not good for our fans and we didn't react the way we should have."
The Blues opened the scoring at 3:20 as Stewart recorded his team-leading 15th goal and 29th point of the season. With Sam Gagner covering on defence, Stewart burst down the wing, used a screen to his advantage and snapped a shot short side.
That was the game-winning goal.
"It's one of those nights you want to forget about," said Jordan Eberle.
David Perron was sent off for holding at 9:42, giving the Oilers the lone power-play of the period, but the home side failed to register a shot on goal.
St. Louis led 6-4 in shots after one. Nikolai Khabibulin got the start for the Oilers and was solid all night, posting 22 saves in the loss.
"We expected them to bring their 'A' game today and they did," said Krueger. "They're an excellent hockey club. They put a lot of pressure on us at both ends. The physicality of St. Louis is well known around the League and we had some trouble matching that today.
"The compete level right through the lineup today was not where we needed it to be."
Perron was assessed his second penalty of the game 8:21 into the second, but a bench minor for too many men charged to the Oilers negated their man-advantage 1:11 in.
Off-setting minors to Ryan Whitney (tripping) and Perron once more (diving), and a separate minor to Shawn Horcoff (hooking) later in the period kept the penalty box doors swinging, but shots and high-quality scoring chances remained scarce.
A late-period surge by Stewart, Steen and Backes forced Khabibulin to be sharp -- that he was, turning aside a total of 13 second-period shots, keeping the game within reach.
Just 2:55 into the third, the Blues made it a 2-0 game. Steen whistled a wrist shot wide and off the end boards, raced to his rebound and deposited the garbage into the empty cage behind Khabibulin.
"That really took the wind out," said Krueger. "That's unacceptable for the kind of team we want to be."
The Oilers pushed back moments after, peppering Halak with six shots in the opening 10 minutes of the third, but were unable to get one past the Slovakian goaltender.
Pushing to get on the board, Taylor Hall made a costly turnover at the offensive blue line. In transition back the other way, Andy McDonald sifted a pass to Oshie, who performed a nifty backhand deke at the doorstep to put the game out of reach with 8:52 to play.
"We were disconnected for sure," said Eberle. "It's a game where we got out-battled. There was a lot of space, we had trouble making tape-to-tape passes and trouble winning battles down low. We have to forget about it and move forward.
"We had success in our past two road games, so we've got to turn the ship around and get back to winning."
It begins on Monday as the Oilers face the Nashville Predators in the Music City.
OIL SPILLS: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has missed the past two games with an illness. Ralph Krueger said post-game that RNH had a "good day" and will travel with the team to Nashville.
-- Ryan Dittrick, edmontonoilers.com | Follow me on Twitter @ryandittrick
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