Nursing a 1-0 lead or failing to build on such an advantage in the third period against the experienced and skilled Detroit Red Wings is quite often a recipe for disaster.
The Edmonton Oilers, who can ill afford to give up points as they jockey for playoff position late in the season, found out as much Tuesday night.
Visiting Detroit overcame a 1-0 deficit with three goals in the final 20 minutes to hang on for a 3-2 victory, its eighth win of the season when trailing after two periods. Only Pittsburgh, with 11, has more than the defending Stanley Cup champions.
"Those are the games that drive you to drink," Oilers forward Dustin Penner said. "It doesn't feel good. I'd say that feels worse than losing 10-2. Especially at this point of the season with the way we have been playing and who we were playing tonight. That one stings."
The 35-29-9 Oilers are seventh in the NHL's Western Conference with 79 points, but the Anaheim Ducks moved to within a point of Edmonton following a 2-1 shootout victory over Nashville. The ninth-place Predators also have 78 points.
"It's just another heart-breaker," Oilers defenceman Tom Gilbert said. "It's tough at this time of the year when you need as many points as possible. It's a tough one to swallow."
Edmonton, with its third loss at home in four games, dropped all four of its contests to Detroit this season and was outscored 19-8. It's the first time the Red Wings have swept a season series from the Oilers since 1996.
Edmonton head coach Craig MacTavish admitted it was tough to take the loss when he felt his team had done so much right in the contest.
"A game like that leaves everybody with a heavy heart," he said. "It's an incredible sense of disappointment. But at the same time we played pretty well and in a lot of ways outstanding — the way we checked and killed penalties. It's disappointing, but we'll take some solace in that.
"It's going to be quite the nine-game stretch here down to the end."
Dwayne Roloson made his franchise record 29th consecutive start in the Edmonton net and made 41 saves, but it wasn't enough to post his first win in three starts versus Detroit this season.
Barrage of shots in final 2 periods
It appeared Denis Grebeshkov's first-period power-play goal might hold up, but the Red Wings were a constant threat thereafter, outshooting the home side 35-13 over the final two periods.
Detroit head coach Mike Babcock was impressed with the way his team came back from a difficult first period, playing their second night in a row following a 5-3 loss in Calgary on Monday.
"When you play back-to-back, your legs aren't the same as they normally are," he said. "It takes you a while to get them back. You've got to fight through that and not bury yourself early in the game while your legs do come back, and I think that's what happened."
Jonathan Ericsson spoiled Roloson's bid for a shutout midway through the third, scoring his first goal of the season when his point shot deflected off Oilers defenceman Steve Staios into the net.
Later in the period, Detroit netminder Ty Conklin robbed Patrick O'Sullivan, while Sam Gagner had him down and out but lost control of the puck.
Thirty seconds later, Detroit's Johan Franzen rang a shot off the post, only to watch Marian Hossa break the tie 17 seconds later with his 37th goal of the season.
"I had been trying to shoot all night long and it didn't really work for me," Franzen said. "I heard Hossa coming and he was yelling for the puck. I kind of faked a shot and went back to him in the middle. The goal was really waiting for him."
Valtteri Filppula made it a two-goal margin just 32 seconds after.
Ales Kotalik gave Edmonton some hope with his 15th of the season on a one-timer from the hash marks. But with 16.6 seconds remaining and Roloson pulled for an extra attacker, Detroit's Henrik Zetterberg beat Shawn Horcoff on a faceoff and the Oilers failed to get another shot.
The Red Wings improved to 49-16-9 and regained top spot in the West. They have 107 points to San Jose's 106, but the Sharks have two games in hand.
Edmonton opens a two-game road trip against the Phoenix Coyotes on Thursday at 8 p.m. MT, followed by a Friday date with Anaheim.