The Edmonton Oilers have only lost three straight games, but the way things are going, the skid must seem a lot longer.
It looked as if the Oilers (13-10-2) were ready to take control of the Northwest Division with a recent five-game win streak, but things have quickly turned sour.
A 4-0 loss to visiting Columbus on Saturday was the third straight defeat— all at home—for Edmonton, which has been outscored 14-5 during the slide after outscoring opponents 19-8 in the win streak.
If getting shut out at home by the league’s worst team wasn’t bad enough Saturday, the Oilers lost Smyth to a fractured thumb in the first period that will keep him out of the lineup indefinitely.
“It was just a freak thing, but very unfortunate,” said Smyth, the team leader with 16 goals. “I’m just lucky it didn’t displace or else I’d be out a lot longer.”
Smyth’s injury is the latest bad break for Edmonton, which lost third-leading scorer Ales Hemsky to a shoulder injury against Anaheim on Tuesday. He is expected to miss at least another week.
“Every team is going to go through situations like this and you have to make sure that you can survive them,” Oilers coach Craig MacTavish said. “It is a test of the mettle of our team right now.”
Also a cause of concern for MacTavish is his team’s power play, which is 0-for-11 during the losing streak. That unit now has to make do without Smyth, the team leader with six power-play goals.
Without Smyth and Hemsky, even more pressure will fall on goaltender Dwayne Roloson, but he has been pulled in each of his last two starts, allowing nine goals on 40 shots in 70 minutes.
Despite his recent struggles, MacTavish said Roloson will be back in net Monday.
“We’re not in a position of strength where we can take our best player out of the lineup.”
Monday begins a stretch where the Oilers play seven of their next 10 games on the road, where they are just 3-6-1 this season.
The Canucks (13-13-1) are still having trouble scoring, but have played well enough defensively to win two of their first three games on a five-game homestand.
“Huge save after huge save,” Pyatt said. “To have a goalie like that behind us builds a lot of confidence.”
Daniel Sedin ended a 10-game scoring drought as Vancouver scored more than one goal for the first time in five games. The Canucks have been held under three goals in 13 of their last 15 games, and only Columbus, with 55, has scored fewer goals than their 59.
“Obviously we’ve been struggling scoring goals, so we just tried to keep it simple and get it to the net and generate traffic and we got a couple of goals tonight,” Pyatt said. “Two goals is big for this team.”
These Northwest Division rivals split a home-and-home series on Oct. 16-17, with each posting a 2-1 home win.