Fast-fading Edmonton Oilers dig a new rock bottom in Carolina

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At least it was quick.

After dragging out their first two losses of the road trip, creating false hope with a pair of 2-0 leads and then collapsing like a blow-up Santa Claus that just got stabbed with a pitchfork, the Edmonton Oilers got the losing done in a hurry Wednesday.

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This time, aside from a few minutes in the third period when Carolina called off the dogs, there was no reason to believe. No illusions that the Oilers belonged in the game. No indication that the third-worst team in the NHL was turning things around. Just a comprehensive beating that was over in 12 shots.

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“No energy, they were faster, they kept it simple and we couldn’t handle the pressure,” said winger Evander Kane, summarizing a 6-3 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes perfectly. “We didn’t handle the pressure well at all and they capitalized on their opportunities.”

In a season where they’ve already hit rock bottom twice — losing to San Jose and firing another coach one game later — the first period of this one ranks right up there.

The Oilers stumbled their way to a 4-0 deficit in the first 14:48 and got buried in the hole they just dug.

“We talked about (Carolina starting fast) and obviously this wasn’t good enough,” said Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. “It was a poor start and we were trying to claw our way back the whole game.

“We’re just not finding ways to get the job done at the end of the day.”

They fell to 5-12-1 on the season and 2-3-0 under new coach Kris Knoblauch, who is finding out, like the four coaches before him since 2015, that it’s really hard to win with a team that’s allergic to defensive zone coverage.

“I see a lot of guys who are working hard, who do care, but are so worried about making mistakes and it’s paralyzing us and holding us back,” said Knoblauch. “We’re just not playing with our instincts.”

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So the downward spiral continues, with no end in sight. Oilers CEO of hockey operations Jeff Jackson already used the fire-the-coach bullet five games ago and they’ve allowed 20 goals against in the last four.

The way things were supposed to go this season is that this was going to be a measuring stick game between a couple of the NHL’s heavyweight contenders.

Instead, it was a first-round knockout. A mismatch. A deep, hard-working, structurally-sound team slapping the Oilers silly. 

When the money was on the table in the opening minutes it was no contest.

Goaltender Stuart Skinner’s .873 save percentage is going to take a savage hit after giving up four goals on 12 shots, but he was the victim of the team in front of him on this night.

Jesper Fast all alone in front: 1-0 at 9:17.

Two-on-one back door tap-in: 2-0 at 9:52.

Back door tap-in off the cycle: 3-0 at 11:23.

Wrist shot from the faceoff dot: 4-0 at 14:48.

And that was it.

Edmonton’s valiant comeback attempt in the second period consisted of four shots. 

Score effects took over in the third period with Carolina, up with a 5-2 lead, hanging back and trying to run out the clock while the Oilers applied pressure. Zach Hyman scored his team-leading 10th goal to make it 5-3 with lots of time left, but the Canes wouldn’t break.

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“In the third period we had nothing to lose, we went out there and played a really simple game, fast and very direct and we dictated a lot of the play,” said Knoblauch. “We need more of that.”

The Oilers will try to avoid an 0-4 road trip Friday afternoon in Washington, where the 10-4-2 Capitals are on a five-game win streak.

“We have to focus on the next game, “ sighed Kane. “It’s been redundant, the same kind of message after a lot of games this season, too many games this season. Move on and get ready for the next one.”

OUCH

Defenceman Darnell Nurse took a beating before the game even started when a shot hit the crossbar in warm-up and hit him square in the face. He returned to the game a few minutes in with stitches and a bandage across his forehead and cotton in his nose to stop the bleeding.

The game saw all four goalies as Carolina starter Antti Raanta left during the first intermission with an undisclosed injury. Pyotr Kochetkov came in relief.

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