EDMONTON – The Edmonton Oilers keep finding new and devastating ways to lose.
James Neal’s goal with just 22.2 seconds remaining helped the Dallas Stars snap a 10-game road losing trip, defeating the struggling Oilers 4-3 on Friday night.
Down 3-2 late in the third, the Oilers looked like they were sending the game to overtime after sustained pressure in the Stars zone as Sam Gagner was credited with his second goal of the game after Mike Modano inadvertently kicked it into his own goal with 1:02 to play.
But less than a minute later the Stars scored to take the game as Jason Strudwick’s clearing attempt went straight to Neal’s stick and he put his 20th of the season past Oilers goalie Devan Dubnyk.
Gagner had a pair of goals and Ryan Potulny scored the other for the Oilers (16-28-6) who are mired in a disastrous 10-game losing streak and have just one win in their last 18 outings.
It’s Edmonton’s worst losing streak since a 12-game skid from Feb. 25-March 21, 2007.
Oilers head coach Pat Quinn said this loss was one of the hardest to take of the entire season.
“That was a bad way to finish, for sure,” he said. “It’s disappointing. I hate it. I can’t stand it. Tonight should have been a better feeling. It makes me sick to think of how we give games up.
“This started 13 or 14 games into the season, where we started finding ways not to win. They worked very hard to have a good result and that’s what makes this one so distasteful and so disappointing.
“I knew in my heart when we scored that late goal that we were going to win that hockey game. Unfortunately it didn’t grab my heart, it grabbed my guts. We still haven’t found a way to stop losing.”
Jamie Benn, Trevor Daley and Modano also scored for the Stars (22-18-11) who have won three of their last four.
“That game came down to the last shot,” said Stars head coach Marc Crawford. “We got a little bit of a bounce but I thought we worked hard for that bounce. I liked the way our players dug in tonight. It was a step in the right direction and to get a road win was a real positive. It’s huge for us. We have been a little fragile in our road games. We found a way to get the victory tonight and its something we can build on.”
“We hadn’t won on the road in I don’t know how many games,” added Stars forward Steve Ott. “It was getting ugly.”
Dallas started the scoring exactly six minutes in as Daley got all of a hard shot coming in from the point to put his third of the season past Dubnyk.
The Oilers got themselves in all kinds of penalty trouble midway through the first and finally paid for it on their fourth consecutive kill, when a Mike Modano point shot got past Dubnyk with Steve Ott providing a screen on the doorstep.
At that point in the game the Stars were outshooting Edmonton 17-2.
The Oilers responded with a power-play goal of their own less than a minute later, however, as Potulny showed a solid second effort in front of the net to put in his own rebound past Stars starter Marty Turco.
The shot clock favoured Dallas 18-11 at the end of the first.
The Stars went ahead 3-1 midway through the second period, as Ott made a nice pass to send Benn in on a partial break and he made the most of it, scoring his ninth.
The Oilers made it a one-goal game again with just 19 seconds left, shortly after Lubomir Visnovsky rattled a shot at a wide-open net off the post, as Tom Gilbert found Gagner at the side of the net and he was quick on the trigger to net his 11th goal of the season.
Edmonton outshot Dallas 14-5 in the second and led 25-23 after 40 minutes.
The Oilers had a good opportunity to tie the game up about seven minutes into the third as Dustin Penner raced for a loose puck deep in the Dallas zone but Turco came way out of his net and slid into Penner, taking away the chance.
Edmonton continued to press hard in the third for the equalizer and finally tied the game up with just over a minute to go on when Modano booted the puck into his own net giving Gagner credit for his second goal of the game. But the Stars quickly shook off the gaffe.
“First time I’ve ever done that,” Modano said. “Couldn’t have been any more solid. Tried to get it down to my stick and get it out. Kind of sums up two teams that have had a run of bad breaks and we finally won one.”
Turco said there was a real range of emotions in the final minute of the game.
“When (Modano’s own goal) went in, I was thinking why here, why now?” he said. “I’m sure it felt like a punch in the gut to the guys on our bench but to get out of our streak of losing on the road with the late goal . . . that’s a huge emotional lift.”
The Stars wrap up a three-game trip in Colorado on Sunday while the Oilers are off until Tuesday when they will play host to Chicago.
Notes: It was the third meeting between the two teams this season with Edmonton winning the first two in shootouts. . . The Stars lead the league in games going past regulation with 16 games going to either overtime or a shootout. That’s 40 per cent of their games. . . With defenceman Steve Staios and Ladislav Smid both out with concussions, the Oilers recalled defender Taylor Chorney from Springfield for the game. Edmonton was also without forward Gilbert Brule, still suffering from the flu. . . Stars captain Brenden Morrow missed a third straight game because of an upper-body injury, while forward Tom Wandell was out again after leaving Thursday’s contest in the third period with a lower-body ailment that has him day-to-day. . . Oilers leading scorer Penner (43 points) entered the match having scored only three points in his last 13 games, but had two assists on Friday. . . Dubnyk made his sixth career NHL start and the fourth in the last five games for the Oilers.