There are bounce back games, and then there’s what the Edmonton Oilers accomplished Saturday night against the best team in the NHL. Returning home after a disappointing road trip, the Oilers were looking to get back on the winning track. Losers of four in a row, and slipping down the standings, Edmonton needed a good game. And they got it.
The Oilers have struggled to score this season, winning games early on thanks mainly to stellar goaltending. But lately their weaknesses had been exposed, and many were doubting if this team could challenge for a playoff spot. Marquee player Taylor Hall was in a goal scoring drought, with just 3 markers on the season. Against Chicago however, Hall doubled his season total, notching his second career hat trick en route to a rout. The Oilers 9-2 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks marked the most goals scored in one game by Edmonton since 1996 when they beat the Calgary Flames 10-1. The goals came early and often, providing some much needed confidence for a team lacking finish.
Ales Hemsky opened the scoring 48 seconds in. It was his first goal of the season. Patrick Sharp would tie the game for Chicago, but that would be as close to respectable as the game would get. Ryan Jones and Ryan Smyth scored 2 minutes apart to give the Oilers a 3-1 lead, then Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle extended it to 5-1 before the first period ended. Tom Gilbert, Hall and Shawn Horcoff scored in the second period, and Hall would complete his hat trick midway through the 3rd. The team wouldn’t reach double digits while the crowd chanted “we want 10”, but they were certainly not disappointed at their team’s performance. Chicago was coming off a tough loss against the Flames on Friday, and were likely hoping for a bounce back themselves. The Hawks slipped to the second overall spot in the league, tied for points with the first place Minnesota Wild. (Hands up who thought that would be the case!)
Edmonton embarks on another road trip tomorrow, facing the slumping Dallas Stars on Monday, followed by the Nashville Predators on Tuesday. Numerous injuries to the blueline has forced the call-ups of young defencemen Taylor Chorney and Colten Teubert. Teubert was of the main pieces in the trade that sent Dustin Penner to the Los Angeles Kings last night. Though he didn’t get a goal, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins got 4 assists last night, giving him 19 points in 19 games, a fantastic start for the rookie. The big win will certainly be a highlight for the team as they continue to fight for that elusive playoff spot. And they’ve gotten some of their swagger back.