EDMONTON - The Edmonton Oilers' first win of 2010 didn't improve their place in the NHL standings and it won't change the fact that they'll miss the playoffs for a fourth straight season.
But the win did provide a desperately needed respite from the gloom that's been hanging heavy in Rexall Place.
In a dressing room where smiles and laughter have been as rare as victory celebrations for over a month, Monday's 4-2 win over the Carolina Hurricanes - which snapped a 13-game winless streak -was huge.
The morning after they left the ice to a standing ovation from a capacity crowd, the Oilers filed into the rink for practice with a win to talk about.
It was the first time since Dec. 30 that they could savour a victory, a welcome change in routine.
"Today was a little lighter. There was some humour out there," coach Pat Quinn said after practice. "We could afford a laugh.
"You know what? In life, you've got to have some laughs, you really do. We weren't having any."
At 17-31-6 with 40 points, the Oilers remain mired in 30th place in the overall standings, dead last, and 22 points out of a playoff spot in the Western Conference. Monday's win was just their second in 22 games, a span in which they were 2-18-2.
"It's good for the head, obviously," said goaltender Jeff Deslauriers, who got the win. "We can have some positives now. It's just one game, but it was fun to see the guys playing together, everybody playing a role.
"The mood is different. We had no success the last month, but we played a good game last night. It's nice to build on a positive when you have a positive situation, not trying to find positives out of a negative situation."
While the Oilers' two wins during their numbing stretch of futility came against Carolina and the Toronto Maple Leafs, teams occupying 28th and 29th place in the league, the details didn't matter Tuesday.
"It was getting tough to come up with explanations about how we were feeling," veteran Shawn Horcoff said. "In a lot of ways we all felt like we deserved better. We didn't feel we were playing as bad as our record.
"But things build, emotions run higher and that makes it a little bit tougher. It was nice to get that one. Hopefully, it'll relax everyone now and we can get back to our old ways."
The winless streak was tough on veterans because when things are going badly, the leadership of a team gets questioned. On the flipside, it was also hard on younger players like Sam Gagner and Andrew Cogliano, who have yet to make the playoffs as Oilers.
"It's tough for everyone, but in different ways," Horcoff said. "As a veteran, you're trying to get yourself together and trying to get going while trying to help guys and keep things positive."
Having become the first NHL team in 12 years to go a calendar month without a win after a fruitless January (0-10-2), the Oilers would have tied a franchise record 14-game winless streak if they lost to Carolina on Monday. At least that dubious distinction is out the window as they face the Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday.
- Sheldon Souray had surgery Tuesday to repair a broken bone in his right hand. Souray, who suffered three small fractures in a fight with Calgary captain Jarome Iginla in the third period of a 6-1 loss to the Flames Saturday, is expected to be out for at least six weeks.