An inability to force shootouts may be costing the Edmonton Oilers some much-needed points. Most teams, though, are finding tiebreakers with the Colorado Avalanche to be futile.
Coming off consecutive overtime losses, the Oilers look to avoid becoming the second straight playoff contender to lose to the lowly Avalanche as the teams meet at Rexall Place on Saturday night.
Edmonton (32-27-8), tied with Dallas for seventh place in the tightly contested Western Conference, has lost four of five during a stretch in which it needs every point it can get.
Three of Edmonton's last four defeats have been in OT, including 4-3 at home to Atlanta on Thursday night, and coach Craig MacTavish believes his team is letting points slip away.
"There has been three of those in the last eight days with the same result," MacTavish said. "We can't even get them to the shootout. We've got really strong shooters and I would have liked our chances in the shootout."
The Oilers have been respectable in shootouts, winning four of eight while going 1-0-4 in OT.
Edmonton has lost three straight matchups that have gotten past regulation against Colorado (30-37-1), falling short in a shootout each time. In the teams' only such contest this season, the Avalanche got goals from Wojtek Wolski and Darcy Tucker in the tiebreaker to beat the Oilers 3-2 on Nov. 15.
Those situations seem to bring out the best in Wolski and Colorado, which is 9-1 in shootouts and 2-0 in OT.
Wolski has scored eight goals in nine shootout attempts. One of those scores helped the Avalanche beat Minnesota 2-1 on Thursday night. The Wild trail the Oilers by one point in the West.
As good as Colorado has been in OT and shootouts, its 19-37 record in regulation has it in last place in the conference. Fourteen of those losses were decided by one goal, and the costly defeats have certainly been on the mind of coach Tony Granato.
"There's a lot of things you can go back on in a year," Granato said. "I'm sure every team is thinking the same thing right now."
Edmonton would be wise to be aggressive early with hopes of getting a quick lead.
Oilers left wing Patrick O'Sullivan said a slow start played a large role in Thursday's game, which Edmonton trailed 2-1 after the first period.
"The next time we need to be ready to go right from the start," said O'Sullivan, who scored his first goal since being acquired at the trade deadline from Carolina.
The Oilers lost even after activating captain Ethan Moreau from the injured list earlier in the day. The veteran left wing had been sidelined since Feb. 28, when he took a stick in the eye during a 3-2 victory over Minnesota.
Moreau has just five goals in 47 games versus Colorado, which has been held to two goals or fewer in six of its last seven.
The Avalanche, though, have won two of three after losing their previous six. They had lost five straight and 10 of 12 on the road before a 5-1 win over Chicago on Sunday.
The Oilers are 2-1-1 against the Avalanche in 2008-09. The teams will conclude their season series Thursday night at Colorado.