ANAHEIM - It was one of those games that just got away from the Oilers.
The team started out well and finished well but in between the Oilers just didn't get the bounces against an Anaheim Ducks squad that grinded out a 2-1 win at the Honda Center on Monday night.
"I thought we really came out with an excellent start. The guys were activated, we were getting pucks to Hiller, we were creating a lot of things that made us feel good about the way the game was going," said Oilers head coach Ralph Krueger.
Former Oiler Radek Dvorak led the way for the Ducks. He scored both Anaheim goals -- one in the first period and one in the third.
"I thought the 1-0 flattened us. And going 20 minutes, from the 18th minute in the first period to the 18th minute in the second with eight minutes shorthanded gave us a stalled feeling," Krueger continued. "We worked hard on those penalty kills and together with Dubnyk they did an excellent job but we just lost our pace completely through that. Our defencemen coming through those PKs couldn't jump up into the play. We weren't getting through the neutral zone as efficiently as before."
For Edmonton, the story coming into the game was former Ducks draft choice Justin Schultz but in the end, it was a different Schultz -- Nick -- that converted for his first as an Oiler in the third period.
"In the third, I thought the guys came hard. I thought they battled hard. We attempted to get back in it but just a very experienced Anaheim team. One bad breakdown in the D zone and they punished us (with the Dvorak goal)."
The Oilers now head home were they will play seven of their final nine games at Rexall Place including a pivotal match-up this Wednesday against the Phoenix Coyotes.
"It's a painful loss. We came here and we had to win against one of the top teams in the League. More than anything, for me, when I look back it was that middle stretch in the second period with the penalty kills and lack of production that really cost us the game."
Coach Krueger felt that the team still had a chance to make the playoffs despite the daunting task of four points out with only nine games to go.
"Give up, we will not. But understanding the difficulty of our situation, we will. I thought the urgency was in the group at the beginning of the game and somehow we let it slip away in the middle section. We've got to keep this picture small, that's all we can do right now is go home, have an unbelievable homestand and try and scrap ourselves back into it."
Just under six minutes into the game, shots on goal were 6-0 in favour of the Oilers as they carried the majority of the play early on. The opening frame was really a tale of two periods as Edmonton dominated the early-going but the Ducks came on strong late.
The Ducks started to take over the momentum in the second half of the period and ultimately got on the board first. Luca Sbisa fired a blast from the right point that was kicked out by Dubnyk but Dvorak was right there to pick up the rebound and backhand it in past a sprawled-out Oilers netminder.
Hall was one of the better Oilers on the night and was understandable dejected after the loss.
"We really had to win this one," he said. "We’re in a tough spot right now. Three games go away right there and now were a ways back. It’s going to take a lot for our group and we’re just going to have to stay motivated and you never know what could happen. Definitely tonight was one that we had to win."
Nick Schultz scored his first goal as an Oiler as his shot from the left side boards was deflected into the net by Ben Lovejoy to get the Oilers back on even terms.
However, with 12:12 to go in the third, Dvorak pounced on a loose puck in the slot and outwaited Dubnyk before putting the puck into the open cage to put Anaheim back out in front 2-1.
Schultz felt that ultimately not getting on the scoreboard until the final frame hurt the team.
"If we had scored earlier in the game it would have helped in that regard. For some reason in the last few games, we are taking more penalties than we have in the past. We’re killing the speed of our game. We need to be more disciplined and make sure we’re not killing ourselves."