Behind the 8-ball: Oilers start playoffs 0-2 against Mississippi.

altMistake-ridden Oilers lose two crucial home playoff games.

TULSA, OK– If you passed by the BOK Center last night or on Thursday evening you saw a lot of disappointed Oilers fans getting into their vehicles and heading home.

The Oilers took to the ice on Thursday for their first playoff game since March 2005 and got a quick dose of intensity from their opponent as just 37 seconds into the first period when Mississippi Riverkings forward RG Flath found the twine behind Oilers goalie Ian Keserich.

Hope briefly filled the hearts the 3,011 Oilers fans in attendance a few seconds later as Oilers forward Marty Standish apparently scored, but referee Mark-Andre Lavoie waved it off and ruled that Standish had interfered with Mississippi goalie Alexander Pechurskiy and assessed him with a two minute minor penalty.

Things did not improve from there.

The Oilers tied the game on a Mike Beausoleil goal at 9:41, but the Riverkings responded with two goals to close the first period, an even strength marker by Louis Dumont and a power play goal by Christ Richards.

Mississippi would score again at 7:25 of the second period on a goal by Patrik Levesque, then Derek Eastman would pull the Oilers to within two goals with a power play mark with just 1:15 to go to make the score 4-2 going into the third period.

The Riverkings erupted for 3 goals in the 3rd, coming from Evgeny Timkin, Matt Boyd, and Bendan Sarazin. Tulsa would score at 17:58 on the power play but it was too little too late. As the final horn sounded on the BOK score-clock, the boobirds were out in force. Many departing fans hoped that the poor performance of the Oilers was an early, and cruel April Fools day prank.

Game two: A new playoff day ends in disappointment.

In any playoff series, your “tomorrows” are limited. Oilers coach Bruce Ramsay and the team looked to take the game to the Mississippi Riverkings and even the firat round CHL Playoff series at 1-1.

The Riverkings roared out to a 2-0 lead on two quick goals by Evgeny Timkin 8:08 and Patrik Levesque at 9:45 of the first period. Mike Beausoleil poked in rebound of a Tom Dignard blast at 16:41 of the second period to bring the Oilers to within a goal, but after Tulsa goalie Trevor Cann was pulled for the extra attacker late in the 3rd period, Chris Richards slipped the puck into the un-tended Tulsa goal cage with just :32 seconds remaining in the game.

The story of the second game was not the Oilers lack of execution or intensity, but their inability to stay out of the penalty box, particularly in the 3rd period,

Referee Geoff Miller had a lot to do with that, swinging the man advantage, and in at least two instances in the second and third frame a two-man advantage), in the direction of Mississippi. Tulsa was 2nd overall in the regular season on the penalty kill, but it also kept the Oilers manpower down to create scoring chances. At several points in the third period it seemed as if Miller’s arm was in the air every time the Riverkings fell to the ice.

To their credit, in both games the Riverkings did shut down Tulsa snipers Jack Combs and Chad Costello, and limited the Oilers to just four goals, ALL of them on the power play. Going into game three the Oilers have been outscored 10 goals to four and have yet to notch an even-strength goal.

The Oilers now travel to Southaven, Mississippi facing possible elimination and yet another first-round loss in the playoffs. The Oilers have not advanced past the opening round of the Central Hockey League playoffs since 1994. If the Oilers win Sunday’s game and an “if necessary” game on Tuesday, the final game of the series will take place at the BOK Center next Saturday night at 7:35pm.

Photo by Kevin Pyle.