Well, the Oilers weren’t going to win them all under Jay Woodcroft.
Edmonton took the ice at Rogers Place against the visiting Minnesota Wild and boy — did things not go the Oilers way. Amid a porous defence, Mike Smith gave up four goals on the Wild’s first seven shots of the game.
At that point, the game was as good as over.
But don’t tell that to Woodcroft’s team, no. They got one back on the powerplay in the first, and in the second period got to work. The Oilers didn’t allow a single shot on goal in the first 8:21 of the second period, but of course, their second went in making it 5-1.
As the game wore on, Minnesota made the most of their chances with the game ending 7-3.
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“Tonight, obviously not happy with the result. Wasn’t happy with the way we began the game as a group. I thought we made some errors that can be cleaned up,” said Woodcroft.” You find yourself down 4-1 at the end of the first period you go into the dressing room and you talk as a group the things you want cleaned up. I thought we got a little better as the game went on, but just some mental errors that ended up in the back of our net.”
Edmonton’s tight work in the second was a great sign for a team that could’ve easily given up. These are the types of games you want to see the Oilers battling hard in, and they did just that.
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In a way, you can call this come-to-earth game as the ending of the honeymoon phase between the Oilers and Woodcroft. It was bound to happen, and playing in their fifth game in seven nights, this was as close to a scheduled loss as you could get.
But that’s not a narrative Woodcroft is comfortable with.
“I don’t think we’re in the business of making excuses. The schedule is what the schedule is, and no one in that room I don’t think would go there,” he said. “For me, what i believe is that when you find yourself in situations like this, this is why you have the structure in place — to protect the individuals during tough circumstances.
“In between periods, we talked about sticking together and grinding through those tough circumstances. nobody was pointing fingers, there were no independent contractors out there. We ground through it as a team. We’re going to use it as a growth opportunity going forward.”
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Now, these Oilers get a chance to take a deep breath and get a practice in. Edmonton doesn’t play again until Wednesday night when they embark on three of the toughest games they could play.
Wednesday night they’re in Tampa Bay to take on the fourth-best team in the league in the Lightning. Then Saturday, they kick off back-to-back matinees with a game against the second-ranked Florida Panthers. Sunday morning? Well, it doesn’t get easier against the third-ranked Carolina Hurricanes.
Again, it’s another narrative Woodcroft pushed back on.
“I understand the narrative, I get it. But like I said, I’m going to keep going back to this: we’ve asked our players to keep our picture small, to not worry about the noise from the outside, to just worry about controlling their effort, their energy level, their detail in practice and being their very best on a daily basis,” said Woodcroft. “That’s where our attention is. it starts with a travel day. It moves onto a practice day and eventually, we’re going to be ready to play the Tampa Bay Lightning.”
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All in all, the Oilers clearly have a motivator behind the bench, but one that’s communicating in ways that are clearly resonating better. That’s clear from the play of the team on the ice, last night not withstanding.
Let’s see what this team can do against Tampa.

What they’re saying…

Wild begins Canadian road trip by blitzing Oilers 7-3
EDMONTON, ALBERTA – The Wild didn’t just tidy up its defensive zone after a messy setup recently.
At the other end of the ice, the team also sharped up its offense.
That combination was too much for the Oilers to handle, a 7-3 rout on Sunday at Rogers Place that nixed the Wild’s two-game skid at the beginning of a four-game road trip.
This was the team’s sixth game that featured at least seven goals, the most in franchise history. The Wild is one of only two teams this season to tally seven-plus goals in six or more contests; Colorado has seven.
Kevin Fiala scored twice and added an assist, the fourth line chipped in two goals and Kaapo Kahkonen set the record for rookie wins by a Finnish-born goalie after improving to 12-3-2 on the season with a 30-save performance.
After back-to-back lopsided losses, the Wild finally hit the reset button.
This bounce-back effort started to take shape almost immediately, with the Wild opening the scoring only 2 minutes, 49 seconds after puck drop when a new-look line delivered.
In his return to action after not playing since Jan.1 due to a broken finger, Nick Bjugstad sent the puck to Brandon Duhaime for a one-timer that eluded Edmonton goalie Mike Smith.
The Wild also had one-goal leads in those letdowns to Winnipeg and Florida but this time, the players kept piling on the pressure against an Oilers squad that had won five in a row since a coaching change.
Read more from the Minneosta Star Tribune’s Sarah McLellan here.

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Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at [email protected]