With key players out, Oilers fall short again despite valiant effort

Alexander Kerfoot recorded a goal and an assist and Ilya Mikheyev scored the go-ahead goal midway through the third as the Toronto Maple Leafs defeated the Edmonton Oilers 4-2.

EDMONTON — There is more than half a season to be played, maybe, for the Edmonton Oilers. And they have already had losing streaks of six and five games in length.

The latest, which at least includes a couple of loser points, was a winless five-game road trip on which Edmonton’s Covid-ravaged lineup acquitted itself quite well before losing the finale 4-2 in Toronto.

Played well, lost. Rinse and repeat.

“Good compete, I guess it could have gone either way after the second,” said Leon Draisaitl. “But we’re standing here again. No points.”

If you’re one who says this team has stopped playing for head coach Dave Tippett, your theory has more holes in it this morning than a bag of bagels. Missing Connor McDavid, Tyson Barrie and Derek Ryan to COVID-19, and Nugent-Hopkins to injury, the Oilers can’t be much more competitive against a top team without winning.

They lost on an empty net goal and the two own goals, a true sign of their luck of late.

Edmonton looked very much like a team at the end of a losing skein. They played well enough to win and came up with a big, fat zero.

“You hope there’s better days ahead, but it’s frustrating,” said Draisaitl, the big German horse who played nearly 25 minutes and scored his 26th. “We’ve been losing for a long time now. Eventually it’s time to win, right?”

Ya think?

Back from injury, Mike Smith kicked a puck into his own net to open the game, a familiar song on Edmonton’s sheet. T.J. Brodie later banked a shot off of Evan Bouchard’s stick, then Darnell Nurse’s knee and into the Oilers goal.

For the rest of the night, the Oilers ground out what was nearly a perfect road game. Alas, a late Leafs powerplay goal settled the affair. Edmonton had only one powerplay on the night, and with only 40 per cent of the top unit playing this night, it got nothing done.

“Lots of try. Lots of push. Lots of people trying to have an impact on the game,” said head coach Dave Tippett. “Just couldn’t get that play … that gets you over the top. They got it tonight. We didn’t.”

The old, ‘we played well but didn’t win’ thing is getting old in Edmonton. Their season is swirling in the tank — and you never know if we’re really going to play 82 games this season.

But if you’re looking for someone to rip them apart after this effort, you’ll have to go elsewhere. For a team missing some important parts, the Oilers gave everything they had. Split the fluke goals one aside and they likely win this game, though we know you make your own luck in the NHL.

“You’ve gotta give ‘em credit,” Tippett said of his roster. “It was a solid team effort in the work part, but we’re in a results-oriented business. We’ve got to get the two points.

“We’ve got to find a way to take that next step.”

They’ve now got one game in the next 14 days, and will watch themselves fall in the Western Conference standings as they get healthy for what better be a stronger second half of the season.

As for the notion that the Oilers are quitting on their coach? That’s a kneejerk narrative that’s not borne out by watching the games.

“We’re not quitting,” Draisaitl said. “We’re not quitting on our coach, we’re not quitting on ourselves, our players, our goalies, our team... Nobody. But eventually, you have to find a way to turn it around. There are key players out, but every team is going through that.

“We have to figure it out here eventually.”

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