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With victory up for grabs, Oilers let two points slip away in 24 seconds

DALLAS — Losing a hockey game is like pouring a martini. There is more than one way to do it.

The Edmonton Oilers ordered a double on Tuesday: They could have scored their way to a win, but the power play was running on empty. And they could have defended a 3-2 lead to the finish line, maybe popped an empty-netter for a two-goal win.

But the defending part? Yeah, they kind of choked on that olive as well.

In the end, the Dallas Stars scored twice in 24 seconds, erasing a 3-2 Oilers lead with five minutes to play, as Edmonton snatched defeat from the jaws of victory in a 5-3 loss here in the Big D.

“We’ve been pretty good in those situations all year, where you’re up one with five minutes left,” said assistant captain Darnell Nurse after a minus-2 night. “You gotta find a way to get points tonight.”

You can ask Nurse whatever you want. His answer wasn’t changing much after this disappointing loss to the Dallas Stars.

“There’s five minutes left and you’re up by one. You can’t put yourself in those type of situations where your goalie has got to make (huge) saves. We’ve got to be better in front of him, especially at the end of the game.”

It was the first time all season that Edmonton scored first and lost (21-1). It was just Mikko Koskinen’s second regulation loss in two months (11-2-2), and only his third on the road all season (12-3-3).

Nurse and Cody Ceci are the pair you’d want on the ice late in the game with Dallas pushing, and they folded, on the ice for both goals in that gruesome 24-second span. The Devin Shore line was on for one, the Connor McDavid line for another — so there’s plenty of blame to share as the Oilers missed a chance to get further ahead of the flagging Vegas Golden Knights, 4-0 losers in Winnipeg.

It was especially wasteful after the Oilers, on the second night of back-to-back games, had scored two third-period goals in 43 seconds to take a 3-2 lead.

“Just two mistakes that, you know, with the good teams that we’re playing against right now, that’s in the back of your net,” said Leon Draisaitl, who scored his 42nd and was 56 per cent in the circle on Tuesday. “We can do better in that area.”

“Yeah,” agreed head coach Jay Woodcroft. “Not our finest hour, that last six minutes.”

You could argue, however, that this game was lost when Jesse Puljujarvi drew a penalty at 11:36 of the third, with Edmonton nursing a 3-2 lead. Their power play hopped over the boards with a chance to put this one to rest.

But alas, they couldn’t get the puck successfully off the perimeter. Dallas weathered the storm, and then vaulted ahead.

“Would have been nice,” said Woodcroft, whose power play scored in five straight games (all wins), but couldn’t find any twine on this two-game road trip that yielded but a single point. “It just didn’t happen for us. We had a few chances, but it wasn’t clicking at the rate it has been over the last two weeks or so. It’s been pretty dangerous, but it didn’t go in for us tonight.”

It’s funny, isn’t it?

Edmonton lost an overtime game on Monday in Colorado that felt like a win, they played so well. That one turned on a few lousy breaks, but not the kind that sting like the mistakes that cost the Oilers two points in Dallas.

This one was a bird in hand, and then both points flew off into the bush.

“We’re disappointed that we didn’t walk out of here with points, but these are the types of games that we should expect as we head down the stretch.,” Woodcroft said. “Nobody’s giving points away — especially the teams fighting for playoff spots. They’re punching back when they’re down.

“For us, there are a few moments in today’s game that ended up being big moments, that we can handle better. We’re going to have to learn from it fast, so that we set ourselves up here down the stretch.”

These two points won’t kill you, as wasteful as Tuesday night felt at its conclusion.

But they’re a sign of immaturity, on a team that is supposed to be mature by now.

Hey — it’s a long season. They’re going pretty good, 5-1-1 in their last seven, and now they get San Jose on Thursday, at Rogers Place, travel to Calgary on Saturday, and come home to Arizona on Monday and a huge home game against the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday.

Collect the points against the Sharks and Coyotes, and find a way to get two of four from the Flames and Kings, and nobody will be talking about that night in Dallas.

The night when the Oilers got punched in the mouth and saw nothing but Stars.

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