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Oilers still control their fate in the north despite ‘careless’ loss to Flames

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EDMONTON – They talk about what the recipe for a good team is like when it can win games even when it plays badly.

Then there are the games where you only get one of those two menu items. Like Thursday, when the Edmonton Oilers had the “bad play” part, but despite being around, they couldn’t find a way to win.

The Oilers left their emotions in Winnipeg and their hands somewhere on Swift Current, then returned home to take on a Calgary Flames club that had been in the city longer than Edmonton. The Flames won 3-1 and were the best team by some margin.

“We were careless. Careless with the puck, I flipped a lot of pucks, “said Oilers head coach Dave Tippett. “(Mike) Smith was really good on goal (27 saves), he gave us a chance. We had a few chances but we didn’t bury anything. “

James Neal, who scored the only goal for the Oilers, echoed his coach’s sentiment: “Come back late, try to get some rest and get ready to go tonight … we were a little careless. But we were there for the game. Third period. One goal game. We just have to try to find one and tie it up, and we didn’t. We’ll regroup. “

The redesigned schedule provided the perfect recipe for the type of game the Oilers put together on Thursday, returning home for the second game in a row after playing – and winning – two emotional and important games in Winnipeg. This was one of his two games on hand against the Jets, and the Oilers just didn’t have the juice to take advantage of anything.

“They are a desperate team there, and yesterday we played a game with trips. You could tell they had a little more jump than we did, ”defender Ethan Bear said. “These are playoff style games. When you play against a team fighting for their lives, we have to match that intensity. “

Connor McDavid made no sense in the loss, a small dent in his quest for 100 points and also the end of his four-game streak with three or more points. That should have Calgary nervous on Saturday: McDavid is unlikely to lay back-to-back chicken eggs, with the schedule slowing down and that 100-point number targeted.

Don’t worry, second place in the north is still for Edmonton. With five games to play against the indifferent Vancouver Canucks, there should be no problem keeping the jets in the rearview mirror.

But first, the last of a 10-game season series against the Flames on Saturday night. We can only hope it does more justice to the Battle of Alberta than the no-hitter witnessed Thursday.

“We will play a lot harder,” Bear promised.

There aren’t many negative things to write or say about an Oilers team that lost only its second game in its last six and third in nine outings. If you can play .667 hockey all year long, who’s complaining?

Edmonton is now 26-11-2 from their 3-6 start, and is in control of second place in the North. If ever there was a scheduled loss, this was one. We look forward to much more on Saturday.

Much more.

“You could tell that fatigue was a factor in our game,” admitted Tippett. “We just weren’t as sharp as we needed to be. We will have a day off (Friday) and we will do it again on Saturday. “

He put his lines in the blender at third, the international sign of a coach who knows he’s playing a losing hand on a given night.

“You’re just looking for something. The disk does not go to the network for you, you are just looking for something to happen. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it is not like that. “

Tippett sat Jesse Puljujarvi in ​​the third period, sending him over the boards just four times for 2:47 of ice time. Usually it’s the youngest player who succumbs to the rigors of a tough schedule, and Puljujarvi was simply ineffective on Thursday.

The coach did not apologize for sitting on the top right line. “They cut off his elbow or something. But it was good to play. “

With all due respect to the Flames, who managed to keep the candle flickering in their feeble playoff hopes, this is not one the Oilers will lose sleep over. They have a mandatory day off on Friday and will be performing at Hockey Night in Canada with much improved game we suspect.

That’s the playoff mentality. Whatever happens in that game, it’s over, ”Neal said. “You have to let it go and move on.”

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