The Oilers collected their 1000th victory in franchise history and Ryan Smyth scored his 20th goal of the season in a 4-1 win over the Florida Panthers. “It’s quite the accomplishment,” said Oilers coach Craig MacTavish, who was holding the game puck. “I wish I had them all.” Fernando Pisani, Raffi Torres and Ales Hemsky also scored for the Oilers, who were the third-fastest team to reach the milestone win. Edmonton did it in its 2,114th game, behind only Philadelphia (2,018) and Montreal (2,064).
“That was that easy six team league though,” said MacTavish.
Edmonton also snapped a four game losing skid and moved back over .500 at 19-18-2.
Olli Jokinen contributed the lone marker for Florida.
Oiler defenceman Marc-Andre Bergeron says it was a relief to see the defensive part of the game come together in time to bring them out of their slump.
“We needed this,” he said. “A little while ago we were right up there and now we are at the bottom. Those points are needed. It was a much better effort by the team defensively. When you are giving up five, six, seven goals a game obviously that is not what you are looking for. We can’t expect our team to score nine goals a game.”
MacTavish felt the performance was much better than the past few games.
“The bottom line for us tonight is that we needed a complete effort,” he said. “From everybody in all the facets of our game, including goaltending. Right from the goalie out we played very efficiently and were in the right spots.”
The Panthers fell to 15-20-7 and remain in second last place in the Eastern Conference.
“We had a slow start,” said Panthers defenceman Mike Van Ryn. “Our power play has been struggling of late. We didn’t really generate much offensively and we were a little loose on offence.
Edmonton goaltender Dwayne Roloson and Florida netminder Ed Belfour both had solid starts in a scoreless first period.
It wasn’t until the 13:25 mark of the second period that the deadlock was broken. Torres took a low percentage shot from the right side boards that hit Belfour’s pad and bounced around in his equipment before ending up in the Panther net for a 1-0 Edmonton lead.
The Oilers were able to take a two goal lead on the power play at 18:06 of the second when Hemsky outraced a pair of Panther defencemen and then waited for Belfour to go down before pulling the puck past him and putting a backhand shot into the net.
Edmonton controlled the play for the majority of the period, outshooting the Panthers 19-5.
The Oilers got another gift goal playing four aside midway through the third when Pisani took a wrist shot from the bottom of the circle that found a hole between Belfour and the post to make it 3-0.
Edmonton went up 4-0 with just over six minutes left when Smyth picked off a Van Ryn pass deep in Florida territory and deked Belfour with a backhand goal, hitting the 20 goal mark for the fourth consecutive season.
The Panthers broke Roloson’s shutout bid at 15:32 of the third when Jokinen blasted a shot past the Oiler goalie on the power play.
Both teams return to action on Thursday with Florida travelling to Calgary and Edmonton playing host to Dallas.
Notes: Centre Petr Nedved was unable to join the Oilers in time to suit up for the game against the Panthers. Nedved was claimed off of waivers from the Philadelphia Flyers earlier in the day and will be playing in his second stint with the Oilers, finishing off the final 16 games of the 2004 season with 15 points before leaving as a free agent. To make room for him, Edmonton assigned rookie Patrick Thoresen to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the AHL. . . . With the win the Oilers became the 18th franchise in NHL history to record 1,000 regular season victories. In their 2114th game, the Oilers became the third-fastest team in league history to reach the milestone. Only Philadelphia (2018) and Montreal (2064) have done it faster.