EDMONTON, Alberta -- In football, it's called a missed assignment.
Kelly Miller scored the winner at 1:39 of overtime, putting the puck through Bill Ranford's legs from near the right faceoff circle. It was a play that began with the Oilers lining up improperly before a faceoff in the Edmonton zone. The draw went back to Kevin Hatcher, whose assigned opponent was in the wrong place. Oilers center Doug Weight went to Hatcher instead, and his man, Miller, was open for the goal.
"It was just circumstances," Ranford said. "Off a faceoff, everyone has his assignment. When Hatcher walked down [from the point], I knew we were in trouble. He found the open guy, and the game was over."
Capitals coach Terry Murray won't throw this one back. He was on the other end for the first six games, all Washington losses.
"We have to get some wins on the road," said Murray. "We've got five [road games] in seven days and if we're going to climb out of this hole we're in because of the poor start, we have to get some wins on the road.
"It was a great way to start off a road trip, even though it wasn't the best of games."
The game was tied 1-1 after 20 minutes and 2-2 after 40. Zdeno Ciger scored two for the Oilers, and Hatcher and Sylvain Cote scored for the Capitals.
Washington lost its first six games, then won two straight; the Oilers won their first two and have only earned a single point in seven games since.
"At least we played well enough to give ourselves a chance to win tonight, but I think we can still play a little bit better," said Miller, a 30-year-old left wing now in his eighth season with the Capitals.
In a city that could be playing host to an NHL team for the final season, the two clubs skated on to the Northlands Coliseum ice in front of the smallest crowd to watch an NHL game here. The announced crowd was a record low of 11,063, and only around 9,500 were actually at the rink on a cold, rainy night.
"It's tough luck, it's no good for us," said the Oilers' Ciger, whose second goal sent the game into overtime. "Everybody is trying hard and I don't see anyone who doesn't want to win, but it's not coming.
4 "We have to win one game and keep it sustained."
NOTES: LW Alan May and D Shawn Anderson were scratched by the Caps. . . . D Brian Curran played his second straight game for the Caps after a recent call-up. He was an Oilers farmhand all of last season, and last night faced several teammates from that AHL championship team in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia.
Washington 0 1 1 1 -- 3
Edmonton ..0 1 1 0 -- 2
First period--None. Penalty--Werenka, Edm (holding stick), 15:51.
Second period--1, Washington, Hatcher 1 (Johansson, Pivonka), 15:21 (pp). 2, Edmonton, Ciger 3 (Vujtek, Buchberger), 17:02. Penalties--Khristich, Was (interference), 5:25; Berube, Was (hooking), 10:54; Laforge, Edm (cross-checking), 14:44.
Third period--3, Washington, Cote 1 (Khristich, Krygier), 4:14. 4, Edmonton, Ciger 4 (Weight, Kravchuk), 6:18 (pp). Penalties--Krygier, Was (interference), 5:58; Poulin, Was (high-sticking), 8:58.
l,3 Overtime--5, Washington, Miller 3 (Hatcher, Poulin), 1:39. Penalties--None. Shots on goal--Washington 9-7-11-3--30. Edmonton 11-8-6-2--27. Power-play opportunities--Washington 1 of 2; Edmonton 1 of 4. Goalies--Washington, Beaupre, 3-3-0 (27 shots-25 saves). Edmonton, Ranford, 2-5-1 (30-27). A--11,063. Referee--Mick McGeough. Linesmen--Mike Cvik, Randy Mitton.