EDMONTON — The Edmonton Oilers had the Detroit Red Wings on the ropes for two and a half periods, but their failure to deliver a knockout punch left them in a precarious position in the tight Western Conference playoff race.
Marian Hossa and Valtteri Filppula scored just 32 seconds apart in the final two minutes of play as the Red Wings beat the Oilers 3-2.
Jonathan Ericsson also scored in the third as the Red Wings surged back to first place overall in the NHL with the last-minute victory.
Denis Grebeshkov and Ales Kotalik replied for the Oilers (35-29-9), who lost their second in a row and missed a chance to gain some ground in the West. The Oilers remained seventh, one point ahead of both Nashville and Anaheim.
”Those are the games that drive you to drink,” said Oilers forward Dustin Penner. “It doesn’t feel good. I’d say that feels worse than losing 10-2. Especially at this point of the season with the way we have been playing and who we were playing tonight. That one stings.”
Added Oiler defender Tom Gilbert: “It’s just another heart-breaker. It’s tough at this time of the year when you need as many points as possible. It’s a tough one to swallow.”
Edmonton head coach Craig MacTavish admitted it was tough to take the loss when he felt his team had done so much right in the contest.
“A game like that leaves everybody with a heavy heart,” he said. “It’s an incredible sense of disappointment. But at the same time we played pretty well and in a lot of ways outstanding. The way we checked and killed penalties. It’s disappointing but we’ll take some solace in that.
“It’s going to be quite the nine-game stretch here down to the end.”
Detroit also had something to play for. It was the fifth win in the last six games for the Red Wings (49-16-9), who moved a point ahead of idle San Jose for top spot in the Western Conference.
Detroit head coach Mike Babcock was impressed with the way his team came back from a difficult first period, playing their second night in a row following a 5-3 loss in Calgary on Monday.
“”When you play back-to-back your legs aren’t the same as they normally are,” he said. “It takes you a while to get them back. You’ve got to fight through that, and not bury yourself early in the game while your legs do come back and I think that’s what happened.
“They outshot us in the first, I think they had 13 shots on net and I don’t know how much they finished with but not a lot, so we took over from that point.”
Edmonton opened the scoring on a power play with 1:11 to go in the first, shortly after a two-man advantage had expired. Ales Hemsky sent a pass back to Grebeshkov at the point, and his knuckler found the top corner past Wings starter Ty Conklin.
Edmonton couldn’t keep the Wings off the scoreboard forever as Detroit scored on its 39th shot of the game with 8:45 to play to knot the game 1-1. Ericsson sent a shot off of Oilers defender Steve Staios and past Roloson for his first goal of the season.
Detroit quickly jumped out to a 3-1 lead with its pair of late goals, the first of which was set up by a nice feed from Franzen.
That insurance was needed as Kotalik scored with one minute to play to make it 3-2, but the Wings were able to hang on for the win.