EDMONTON, AB - Despite holding a 2-1 advantage through 40 minutes last night against the Chicago Blackhawks, Oilers Head Coach Ken Hitchcock said the signs weren't pointing in the direction of the Oilers from the opening faceoff.
"We started turning pucks over again after just finishing playing two games where our puck management was exceptional, got better as the game went on and our 5-on-5 play was acceptable," Hitchcock said Wednesday morning. "But yesterday our 5-on-5 was poor from the start. Right from the opening faceoff, we were poor."
Video: RAW | Ken Hitchcock 02.06.19
After two third-period leads on the weekend against Philadelphia and Montreal were overturned and led to overtime defeats, the feeling was amplified once again on Tuesday by the Blackhawks following four goals conceded in 2:48 during the final frame.
"It's not the first time we've played an okay hockey game for the first two periods before collapsing in the third," defenceman Oscar Klefbom said. "We've got to be better and we've got to learn something from last night."
The Oilers addressed their defensive shortcomings against Chicago in the intermissions before the visitors caught up and dealt the blow that would condemn the Oilers to their sixth-straight loss.
"We talked about it between periods and after the game," goaltender Cam Talbot said. "It's about getting pucks deep at their blue line and not turning pucks over, making sure pucks are out at our blue line and not giving them extended zone time. I think we got away with it for a little bit for the first and second there and then in the third period, when they have that much firepower up front, at some point they're going to make you pay. We just have to make sure we're playing smart hockey and we'll get the results that we want."
The challenge of securing a berth in the playoffs remains in reach for the Oilers as players shake off frustrations and attempt to learn from their mistakes with the club only three points back on the Vancouver Canucks for the final Wild Card spot.
Video: RAW | Darnell Nurse 02.06.19
"I think all the guys after the game care so much and know what we're capable of to get the right result, and when you don't it's frustrating," Defenceman Darnell Nurse said of the locker room frustrations. "The passion we have for each other and the care, that's just us showing we believe in ourselves. We believe in this group, we believe in the guys in this room, and we're all looking forward to this challenge. It's a big challenge, there's a big target on us, and we need to find a way to dig ourselves out of it."
A matchup with the Minnesota Wild, also currently locked in the race to the postseason in the first Wild Card position, is the next test for the Oilers on Thursday with no time for caution.
"We're not happy with the way we're playing right now and leaving our goalies out to dry," Klefbom added. "We can't blame them. We've got to come together as a group here and focus on what's important and find our game because we're playing [Minnesota] tomorrow and that's a big game for us. We've got to find a way to reload here, have a good game and stand up for each other."