A loss in their last game ensured that the Edmonton Oilers won't be going to the playoffs. In their season finale, they may have a chance to bring the Vancouver Canucks down with them.
On Thursday, the Oilers face the slumping Canucks, who've lost five of six to fall out of the top eight in the Western Conference.
An impressive run over the past five weeks wasn't enough to earn the Oilers a place in the postseason. Edmonton came into Tuesday night's game against Calgary with 13 wins in its last 18 games, but was eliminated from playoff contention with a 3-2 loss.
The Oilers, though, shouldn't lack for motivation Thursday as they take on their struggling Northwest Division rivals. The Canucks' last six games have been against Northwest teams ahead of them in the standings, but Vancouver managed just one win in that stretch and dropped a point behind eighth-place Nashville in the West.
The Canucks and Predators each have two games left and Nashville hosts St. Louis on Thursday. That means a Predators win would force the Canucks (39-31-10) to beat Edmonton to avoid being eliminated.
"We've got to focus on winning that hockey game on Thursday," Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault said. "Obviously we know we need help, and hopefully we'll get some help, but before that, if we don't win Thursday, it doesn't mean anything."
The Canucks can take solace in knowing how quickly things can change. They led the Predators by a point entering Tuesday's games and were up 2-0 on Colorado in the second period, but allowed four unanswered goals in a 4-2 defeat.
Nashville beat the Blues in overtime to drop Vancouver further back.
"It was a tough one," Canucks forward Matt Pettinger said. "We came out to a pretty good start there and got a two-goal lead. I don't know if it's confidence or just bad decisions but they're a pretty offensive team and when you give them chances they're going to take advantage of it."
It was the third time in the last four games that the Canucks' Roberto Luongo allowed at least four goals. Luongo - who gave up three goals in less than six minutes during the second period - has a 4.93 goals-against average over that span.
"Everybody needs to be better," Vigneault said.
Playing the Oilers (40-35-6) might help. The Canucks are 9-0-3 in their last 12 games versus Edmonton, last losing in regulation in the series on Dec. 4, 2006. Since joining the Canucks before last season, Luongo is 10-1-2 with a 1.90 GAA against the Oilers.
Edmonton will be the first NHL team to close its season. The Oilers had gone 13-4-1 before Tuesday, only to have their unlikely postseason hopes dashed on Owen Nolan's winning goal with 3:44 left in regulation.
"We believed that we could get in and that we had the type of team that could make some noise," Oilers forward Jarret Stoll said. "We can't feel sorry for ourselves. We battled hard when a lot of things were against us. And we never once used those excuses."
Vancouver will be without the services of forward Taylor Pyatt, who was injured on a hit by Colorado defenseman Jeff Finger in the first period Tuesday. Pyatt is fourth on the Canucks in goals (16) and points (37), and Vancouver called up forward Jannik Hansen from the Manitoba Moose of the AHL on Thursday.