EDMONTON – When your name is being mentioned alongside Hall of Famers Wayne Gretzky and Paul Coffey, you know it’s been a special night.
It was a spectacular evening for Sam Gagner who scored four goals and four assists to tie a club record and lead the Edmonton Oilers over the Chicago Blackhawks 8-4 on Thursday.
Gagner’s eight-point game tied the club record held by Gretzky and Coffey and fell two points shy of matching the league mark of 10, set by Toronto’s Darryl Sittler on Feb. 7, 1976.
The 22-year-old came into the game with five goals on the season.
“I didn’t think I would ever be mentioned in the same breath as Gretzky or Coffey,”said Gagner, who was named all three stars of the contest.“You never expect to do something like this.
“It’s a great lesson to never set limits. The great players who played here never did that. It was just one of those games where everything went in and just a great feeling.”
Taylor Hall, Ryan Whitney, Jordan Eberle and Cam Barker had the other goals for the Oilers (20-26-5), who have gone 3-0-1 in their last four games to move into a tie for 28th in the NHL with Anaheim.
Hall, who set a career high of his own with four points in the game, only wanted to talk about Gagner’s night.
“I feel like a bit of a pigeon with four points tonight,”he said.“It was just a crazy night. Every time we got the puck in the offensive zone, especially in the third period, it ended up on Sam’s stick and he made a great play with it. I’m really happy I was able to be on the ice with him. It’s a really cool moment.”
It was the second time this season that the Blackhawks have given Edmonton fans plenty to cheer about. Chicago lost 9-2 to the Oilers at Rexall Place in November.
“It was really fun for our fans to see something like that tonight,“said Oilers head coach Tom Renney.“Sam was having the time of his life and so were his line-mates and the entire team.
“It’s been one of those years where you are looking for things to hang your hats on and feel good about and it doesn’t get much better than this. It puts a smile on your face in a tough year.
“People will remember this game for a while.”
Patrick Sharp had a pair of goals while Jamal Mayers and Dave Bolland also scored for the Blackhawks (29-16-7), who have now lost four straight.
“We really got away from our game plan and opened it up a little and they really made us pay,”Sharp said.“We need to be better in a lot of areas and we’re obviously not happy at all. We’ve gotten away from what makes us a good team.
“We got caught up in scoring goals and playing on the wrong side of the puck. It wasn’t good enough as a team. We need to play defence first and we’ll get out chances from there.”
The Blackhawks started the scoring six minutes into the game as Mayers fluttered a long shot from above the circle that fooled Oilers goalie Devan Dubnyk.
Chicago kept pouring it on but hit a pair of posts—a long blast from the point by Brent Seabrook and another from in close by Andrew Shaw.
Just 40 seconds into the second period Chicago made it 2-0 when Patrick Kane fed it to Sharp who found a clear lane to beat Dubnyk.
The Oilers responded less than two minutes later as Gagner earned his first point of the night. With a long pass Gagner sprung Hall who chipped in his 18th of the year past Chicago goalie Corey Crawford. Hall has scored in three straight games.
Gagner then tied it just over seven minutes later when he picked up his own rebound, circled behind the net, and scored on the wraparound.
The Oilers took a 3-2 lead with seven minutes remaining in the second as Whitney ripped a shot from the point while on the power play for just his first of the season. Gagner earned the assist.
Chicago tied it two minutes later on a short-handed 2-on-1 as Dubnyk gave up a rebound to Sharp who buried his second of the night.
Gagner made it 4-3 two minutes into the third with his second goal of the night. Whitney’s shot sailed over the net but bounced in front for Gagner to put past Crawford.
The Oilers chased the Chicago goalie two minutes later when Barker fluttered a shot from the point that Crawford waved at as it went into the top corner. Gagner earned his third assist and Ray Emery replaced Crawford.
The Blackhawks got a goal back six minutes into the third as Bolland made a no-look backhand swat at a puck that squirted past Dubnyk.
Gagner completed the hat trick 30 seconds later to make it 6-4, as Hall spun around and found Gagner streaking for his sixth point of the game.
But he wasn’t done yet.
Eberle and Hall did terrific tic-tac-toe passing to get Gagner the puck, and he slapped his fourth of the game into a wide-open net as Emery slid to keep up with the play.
With their hats already thrown on to the ice earlier in the period, one fan resorted to throwing a shoe after the goal.
“I was hoping that would be the end of it because if he scored another one we might have seen other paraphernalia that we didn’t want to see,”Renney said with a laugh.
Gagner then added his eighth point of the game by making a prefect feed to Eberle, who scored his 20th of the season with four minutes left.
It was the first eight-point game in the NHL since Pittsburgh’s Mario Lemieux did it on Dec. 31, 1988, against New Jersey.
Dubnyk finished the game with 43 saves on 47 shots.
Crawford let in five goals on 28 shots while Emery allowed three goals on 13 shots.
The Blackhawks are in Calgary on Friday while the Oilers next return to action on Saturday when they host Detroit.
Notes: It was the fourth and final meeting between the two teams. Edmonton won two of the first three, including a huge 9-2 win over the Hawks during Chicago’s last trip to Rexall Place back in November…Edmonton’s once lengthy list of injured players continues to slowly erode as defenceman Cam Barker came back from an ankle injury suffered in November. Rookie scoring leader Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is back skating with the team and is expected to rejoin the lineup on Saturday while blue-liner Tom Gilbert should be back sometime early next week…Chicago’s Andrew Brunette left Thursday’s game with an upper body injury and did not return… Chicago centre Brendan Morrison played in his second game with the team since being traded to the Hawks by Calgary during the all-star break.