The Edmonton Oilers now have the dubious status of holding the longest active playoff drought in the NHL.
The Oilers will miss the playoffs for a seventh consecutive season after losing 3-1 to the Anaheim Ducks on Sunday.
Taylor Hall scored the lone goal for the Oilers (17-20-7), who have lost seven of their last eight games and were officially eliminated from the playoffs for yet another season. The string of futility stretches back to their loss in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final against the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006.
“To have another season where we’re out of the playoffs, another season where we’re playing meaningless games at the end of the year, is very frustrating,” Hall said. “It’s something we’re not proud of.”
Oilers captain Shawn Horcoff, who has been with the team for the entire seven years on the outside looking in, said it hasn’t been an easy process to be a part of.
“It’s tough, it’s been extremely tough on me,” he said. “We made some steps and at least this year we got some meaningful games in, gave ourselves a chance to get in, but it fell off as of late.
“I think we’re moving in the right direction. It’s just a little slower than we’d like.”
It was a badly-needed victory for the Ducks (28-11-6) as Cam Fowler, Kyle Palmieri and Corey Perry scored to help the team snap a four-game losing skid.
“It was a step closer to where we want to be,” said Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf. “There are still mistakes that we need to eliminate going into the playoffs, but this was a much-needed win tonight and one that I felt we deserved. It’s all about playing the right way going into the playoffs. This was a step in the right direction.”
The Ducks can clinch the Pacific Division title with another win over the Oilers in the rematch in Edmonton on Monday.
“It’s great to have a win again after what has been happening for the last little while,” said Ducks goalie Jonas Hiller, who stopped 27 shots for the win. “We knew that we needed to play better, but sometimes it is not that easy. Tonight I think that everybody worked a little harder and that made the difference.”
The Oilers had a quick start to the game, scoring exactly one minute in. Hall notched his 15th of the year as he came in off the boards to beat Hiller between the legs with a wrist shot from the right face-off dot.
The Ducks evened it up with just 1.1 seconds remaining in the opening period as Oiler centre Jerred Smithson broke his stick on the faceoff and Fowler was able to pick up a rebound and bank in his first of the year off of Edmonton goalie Devan Dubnyk’s pads.
Anaheim took a 2-1 lead with just under a minute to play in the second period as Palmieri tried to get a pass through to Teemu Selanne on a two-on-one, but the pass was blocked by a diving Ladislav Smid. However, Palmieri was able to dig the puck from under Smid and deposit his 10th of the year behind Dubnyk.
The Ducks went up 3-1 midway through the third when Getzlaf made a great move to walk around Smid and then sent a backhand pass in front for Perry, who had an easy tap-in for the goal.
The Ducks hit the post twice with Dubnyk pulled for the final two minutes.
Notes: It was the second of three meetings between the two teams this season. Anaheim came in to the game as the winners of their last nine in Edmonton and 12 of the last 14 meetings overall. ... The Oilers announced Sunday that 2011 first overall draft pick Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is out for the remainder of the season as he likely requires shoulder surgery. ... Edmonton forwards Ales Hemsky (foot), Eric Belanger (groin) and Lennart Petrell (leg) are also probably done for the year. ... Anaheim was missing Luca Sbisa (upper body) and defenceman Sheldon Souray (lower body).