EDMONTON -- It was two teams playing out the string Sunday night in Edmonton, but sadly for the Oilers they were stuck at the wrong end of it.
While the Anaheim Ducks
are preparing themselves for the postseason, the Oilers must now accept the fact they'll be on the outside looking in. Again.
They were mathematically eliminated by a 3-1 loss -- their seventh defeat in the last eight games.
"To have another season where we're out of the playoffs, another season where we're playing meaningless games at the end of the year, is very frustrating," said a dejected Taylor Hall
after the home-ice loss. "It's something we're not proud of."
With Toronto clinching a playoff spot on Saturday, Edmonton's streak of seven straight seasons out of the playoffs is now the longest active run of futility in the NHL.
"It's tough, it's been extremely tough on me," said captain Shawn Horcoff, who's been here for every year of it. "We made some steps and at least this year we got some meaningful games in, gave ourselves a chance to get in, but it fell off as of late.
"I think we're moving in the right direction. It's just a little slower than we'd like."
For Anaheim, the victory was a much-needed boost for a team that had been spinning its wheels the last two weeks.
The Ducks are solidly in second place in the Western Conference, some 11 spots above the lowly Oilers, but had lost four in a row and five of seven games heading into the contest. They've been stuck in no man's land for the last month -- they couldn't catch first place Chicago and couldn't be caught by third place Vancouver -- and seem to have lost some interest down the stretch.
"I think it's a human nature thing," said veteran winger Teemu Selanne
. "When we clinched the playoffs, you almost heard the players breathing a little more easily.
"Satisfaction is the worst enemy in this league. When you feel you're a little good, or better than you really are, that's the first step backwards."
He believes getting back on the winning track, getting their taste for winning back, is very important with four games to go.
"We want to finish strong," he said. "The playoffs are around the corner and our goal is to finish strong. I don't really believe that you can just go and turn the switch on in the playoffs. And we haven't played really well lately. We have to start right now.
"Everything is about trying to build momentum for the playoffs. In the past we've been in situations where we were fighting till the last game to make it. Now it's a different situation and sometimes you take it a little too easy. We have to make sure we're ready."
The Oilers were ready ... for a while. Taylor Hall scored 60 seconds after the opening faceoff, looking off goalie Jonas Hiller on a two-on-one break before snapping one through his five-hole, to give Edmonton an unexpected lead.
They would go scoreless for the next 59 minutes.
Anaheim tied it moments before the first intermission after a penalty to Mike Brown gave them a faceoff in Edmonton's end with five seconds left in the period. Those five seconds were more than enough time as the Ducks tied it on Cam Fowler's goal at 19:58.
Another late goal by Kyle Palmieri at 19:03 of the second period gave the Ducks a 2-1 lead at the second intermission.
Corey Perry made it 3-1 midway through the third.
In an interesting scheduling quirk, the Oilers and Ducks will stay in Edmonton play each other again Monday night.
NOTES: Teemu Selanne played his 900th game with the Anaheim Ducks. ... Anaheim is 13-2-0 in its last 15 games against Edmonton. ... Former Oilers defenseman Sheldon Souray led all Ducks defensemen in plus-minus at plus 23 before Sunday's game, while former Oilers center Andrew Cogliano led all Anaheim forwards at plus-14. ... Oilers C Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is done for the season and will undergo shoulder surgery next week to repair a torn labrum. The six-month recovery time means he'll miss training camp and possibly the first few games of next season. ... Injured veterans Ales Hemsky (foot) and Eric Belanger (groin) aren't expected to draw back in, either, as the Oilers take a closer look at their youth. ... Oilers D Ryan Whitney was a healthy scratch for the third straight game. The impending UFA appears to have played his last game as an Oiler. ... Edmonton closes the season with five games in seven days against all three Western Conference division leaders.
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