VANCOUVER, B.C. - Coming off two games in two nights in two cities, the Oilers ran into a hungry and fresh Vancouver Canucks squad and it wasn't a formula that resulted in points in the standings on this night.
"We just didn't seem to bring the energy to match their intensity. They came very hard and heavy. They were extremely strong along the boards early in the game," said Oilers head coach Ralph Krueger.
On the strength of a first-period goal by Kevin Bieksa a second-period goal by Henrik Sedin and third-period goals by Chris Higgins and Zack Kassian, the Canucks prevailed 4-0 in a tight game as the Western Conference playoff race got that much tighter for the Edmonton Oilers.
"The shorthanded situations definitely hurt us. Our speciality teams couldn't get going, which have been strong against Vancouver this season. We've dominated in the speciality teams and just couldn't get our power play going. Just all kinds of signals of a lack of energy."
Krueger added that the Canucks played as well as he's seen them play all season.
"The desire was there but we couldn't match what was, for them, a very strong game. I thought they played as good as I've seen them play this year. They were gapping up and gave us no space and room. We were possibly a little complicated which can show the fatigue."
Edmonton fell out of the 8th and final playoff spot in the West as a result of St. Louis defeating Chicago in a shootout. Columbus topped Nashville which means the Oilers are now in a deadlock for ninth as they head to California for the final two games of this trip.
"You're going to lose games," said Oilers captain Shawn Horcoff. "You're not going to win 17 in a row to finish the season. We'll put it behind us. We know we have better here and we have another bigger challenge coming up ahead of us in less than 48 hours here. We'll get some rest tonight and we'll be ready for the next one."
A couple minutes into the game, Lennart Petrell rifled a wrist shot from the right circle that Cory Schneider had to be sharp in turning away with his blocker.
Just over a minute after that, Maxim Lapierre pushed Ryan Jones into the boards as the Oilers player tried to knock the loose puck out of his zone. The result was an interference penalty to Lapierre, putting Edmonton on the power play for the first time on the night.
The Oilers weren't able to generate much on the ensuing man advantage, however, as Vancouver did a good job killing the penalty.
Vancouver had the Oilers pinned in their own zone for well over a minute as several attempts to clear the puck by Edmonton did not come to fruition. Oilers did keep the Canucks out of the dangerous areas, however, as they only managed one harmless shot on Khabibulin during the sequence.
The Canucks continued to come at the Oilers. Andrew Ebbett and Tom Sestito both had great chances from in-close but Khabibulin made a couple of big stops.
Shots on goal past the opening period's midway point were 8-3 for Vancouver.
Taylor Hall's stick was clutched onto by Henrik Sedin and the result was a penalty to Hall for hooking and Vancouver's first power play of the game. Vancouver buzzed around on the PP but the Oilers were able to kill it off.
11 seconds after the kill, Magnus Paajarvi got called for high sticking and the Oilers went back on the penalty kill. Then a minute later, the team took a Too-Many-Men minor and went down two skaters.
16 seconds into the penalty and moments after Jeff Petry was crippled by blocking a shot with his foot, Vancouver scored as Henrik Sedin spotted Kevin Bieksa at the top of the left circle for a one-timer blast that beat Khabibulin and gave the Canucks a 1-0 lead.
Khabibulin mades a pair of nice saves, first on Chris Higgins and then on Alex Edler with the rebound from the slot as Canucks continued to carry the play late in the period.
Shots on goal after 20 minutes were 13 to 5 for the Oilers.
Oilers got off to a good start in the second period with some chances in the Vancouver end. It led to a penalty on Daniel Sedin for hooking and Edmonton's second power play of the night but again the Oilers weren't able to generate a whole lot on the man advantage.
Vancouver doubled their lead on a nice three-way passing play between Daniel and Henrik Sedin with just over five minutes to go in the second. Henrik passed the puck behind the net over to Daniel who passed it right across the crease back to Henrik who lifted the puck past a sprawled Khabibulin.
Shots on goal after two periods were 22 to 12 for the Canucks.
Alex Edler received two minutes for hooking Magnus Paajarvi just over a minute into the final frame, resulting in another Edmonton man advantage and a chance to draw within a goal but again they were unable to solve the Canucks penalty kill.
Notable on the man advantage, Sam Gagner got clobbered behind the Vancouver net and skated gingerly to the bench. He did take his next shift, however.
Nearly seven minutes into the third, Derek Roy fed Chris Higgins off the rush on a nice saucer pass. Higgins made no mistake, putting it home past an outstretched Khabibulin to make it a three-goal game.
In the final minute, Zack Kassian added one for good measure to make the final 4-0.