EDMONTON – It took a while for the last-place Edmonton Oilers to embrace their role as spoilers but it looks like they’ve finally caught on.
Ales Hemsky scored twice as the Oilers defeated the Montreal Canadiens 4-1 on Thursday night for their second straight win.
Jordan Eberle and Ryan Jones added third-period goals just 15 seconds apart for the Oilers (18-32-8), who have also won two straight at home following seven consecutive losses in Edmonton.
“At the end of the day that’s what we have right now, playing the spoiler,”said Oilers head coach Tom Renney.“We have to continue to gain respect.
“Especially after the three games that preceded these two that have been well chronicled as not being very good at home. We are a proud organization. We want to represent Edmonton and our fans the way they would like us to and that means flat-out hard work and showing up every night.”
Oiler rookie Taylor Hall said it was a unique experience to see the crowd split pretty evenly in terms of fan support for both clubs.
“It was quite the environment with the fans of both teams cheering like they were in the building,”he said.“When we scored our third goal of the game … well, I haven’t heard the fans cheer for us like that since our first game of the season.”
Jeff Halpern scored for the Canadiens (31-21-7), who lost five-of-six games.
Already short of veteran talent on the blue-line, the Habs lost defenceman James Wisniewski seven minutes into the first as he was hit in the face with a Hall shot. He didn’t return as he was taken to hospital for observation.
“Losing James early in the game when we already had a depleted defence made it difficult,”said Habs head coach Jacques Martin.“I thought we competed hard though.
“If it hadn’t have been for a couple of breakdowns in the third, I thought we had a good game. We created chances but their goaltending was strong.”
Edmonton opened the scoring eight minutes in as Hemsky fired his 11th goal of the season past Montreal goaltender Carey Price.
Price kept it from becoming a two-goal game as he robbed Eberle with a quick glove save in tight.
The Oilers had another great opportunity in the dying seconds as the puck was bouncing in front of the Montreal goal before the siren sounded.
Edmonton had 11 first-period shots while Montreal fired eight on Edmonton goalie Nikolai Khabibulin, making his second straight start after breaking a 14-game losing skid Tuesday.
Montreal tied the game 1-1 four minutes into the second as the puck bounced around in the crease after a hard point shot before Halpern tucked it under Khabibulin in a mad scramble.
Khabibulin made some big stops to keep the game even after 40 minutes, particularly when he came across to deny Alexandre Picard in close on the game’s only power play in the first two periods.
Edmonton took a 3-1 lead with Eberle and Jones scoring 15 seconds apart in the third.
Eberle scored four minutes in, taking Hall’s pass before seemingly catching Price by surprise with a high shot from in tight.
The Oilers made it a two-goal game off the ensuing faceoff as Jones took the puck up ice and put it in off Price’s pads.
Hemsky added an empty-net goal with less than a minute left.
Khabibulin finished the game with 36 saves for just his 10th win of the season.
The Oilers close out a six-game homestand Saturday against Atlanta. Montreal next plays in the Heritage Classic outdoor game in Calgary on Sunday.
NOTES–It was the second of two meetings between the two teams. Edmonton won the previous contest 4-3 in overtime in Montreal on Dec. 1…The Canadiens have not had much recent success playing in Edmonton, coming into the game having lost three straight and seven of their past eight at Rexall Place. They’ve not won there since Nov. 22, 2003…Habs defenceman Hal Gill missed his fourth straight game with an upper-body injury while Jaroslav Spacek also sat out with a lower-body ailment…Seeking some defensive help, the Canadiens traded a 2012 fifth-round pick to Anaheim for defenceman Paul Mara, who played in 42 games with the Habs in 2009-10…Edmonton forward Gilbert Brule is reportedly close to returning to the team. Brule has missed more than a month with a bad ankle and a prolonged battle with the flu…Montreal coach Jacques Martin tied Bryan Murray for seventh on the all-time list for most games behind the bench at 1,239. Martin is also just 13 wins from 600.