EDMONTON – The battle of the basement turned into an old-fashioned shooting gallery.
Ales Hemsky scored two goals and added an assist as the Edmonton Oilers won their third game in a row, defeating the Los Angeles Kings 5-4 in a battle between the Western Conference’s two lowest ranked teams on Thursday. Andrew Cogliano, Robert Nilsson and Fernando Pisani also lit the lamp for Edmonton.
Dustin Brown had a pair while Anze Kopitar and Patrick O’Sullivan replied with singles for the Kings.
Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish said the game – and particularly the six-goal second period – was like a blast from the past.
“I can’t remember the last time we got five goals, it was like ’80s night out there,” he said. “Chances at both ends, especially in the second period, it was whirlwind hockey. Which is fine if you come away on the right side of it.”
Pisani said it was the kind of game that players love to be involved in.
“There was a lot of open ice out there and it was fun to play in,” he said. “It was one of those games where you could see Hemsky just winding it up and watching him fly.”Hemsky’s performance was magnified by the fact he is playing with an injured wrist, one that noticeably was paining him after landing on it following his first goal of the game.
“It’s still a little better than it was a week ago,” he said. “It’s something that will improve after the season but right now I jam it every game. It’s just something I have to battle through right now.”
It was the sixth consecutive win for the Oilers (30-30-5) at Rexall Place, keeping their hopes of rejoining the playoff picture at least a remote possibility, moving seven points back of eighth-place Colorado.
The Kings (26-35-4) have now lost four of their last five and are a distant 16 points back of the post-season cut-off.
Brown felt the Kings simply gave the Oilers too many opportunities.
“If you look at the game it wasn’t a matter of them making great plays it was a matter of us making poor plays,” he said. “They were able to capitalize on a lot of the mistakes we made in the second period. When you make that many mistakes it’s tough to win games.”
Kings coach Marc Crawford also thought the game was a bit of a throwback.
“The second period reminded me of some of the games we used to play in when Kevin (Lowe) was playing for the team and a couple other great players were playing for the team,” he said.
“It was end-to-end chances and it was loose to say the least. It’s not really the type of game that we want to be playing.”
It didn’t take the Oilers long to get on the scoreboard, connecting on their first shot just 47 seconds in. Hemsky sprung Cogliano and the rookie sent a wrist shot over the glove of Kings starter Dan Cloutier for his 11th of the season.
Los Angeles responded late in the first period as Kopitar had his original shot blocked by Steve Staios, but picked up the rebound and tied the game with just 5.7 seconds to play, beating Oiler goalie Mathieu Garon.
The Kings took the lead five minutes into what would prove to be a shooting match of a second period after O’Sullivan fired a howitzer from the left face-off circle on a 2-on-1 that seemed to freeze Garon.
But the Oilers were able to even the game three minutes later as Hemsky scored a highlight-reel goal, blowing past Kopitar and scoring a diving backhand goal with Cloutier down and out on the play.
Less than two minutes later it would be a 3-3 game.
The Oilers momentary regained the lead with 10:57 to go in the second as Cloutier made the initial stop on a Sam Gagner shot, but Nilsson was there to chip a backhander into the open cage.
However less than a minute after that it was dead even again on a similar play as Brown picked up a rebound on a blast from Jack Johnson, easily depositing his 27th of the season.
Hemsky made 4-3 with his second of the contest on a long shot that somehow avoided hitting four players on its way to the back of the net. And just 1:08 later Geoff Sanderson sent a pass in front of the net that Pisani was able to stretch out far enough to tip past Cloutier for the sixth goal of the wild-and-wooly second.
The Kings got themselves back into the game again with just over eight minutes to play on a short-handed goal as Brown scored his second of the game, shooting through the legs of defender Tom Gilbert to cut Edmonton’s lead to one goal, but couldn’t complete the comeback.
“It’s nice to see the team score goals like that,” said Garon, who had a bit of an off night, allowing four goals on 26 shots. “We scored four goals in the second and it was huge to come back and take that two-goal lead going into the third. Everybody stepped up tonight.”
The Kings play the second game of their four-game road trip in Colorado on Saturday. Edmonton continues its five-game homestand with their fourth match, facing Columbus on Sunday.
Notes: Joni Pitkanen was back in the Oilers lineup after being helped off the ice after taking a shot off the ankle on Tuesday against Detroit. It’s a good thing too because the Oilers currently have only 20 players on their active roster. The injury-riddled Edmonton team is reluctant to go to the farm for help if at all possible because the AHL affiliate Springfield has also been hit bad, with nine players currently injured. …The Kings activated defenceman Rob Blake off the injured reserve on Thursday and he came right back into the lineup. Blake, 38, had missed the last 11 games due to an ankle injury. …The Kings look to be facing the prospect of losing Ladislav Nagy for the balance of the season. Nagy, who has not been responding to treatment for a neck injury, plans to take another couple weeks before deciding whether or not to have year-ending surgery. …Geoff Sanderson’s second period assist was his 700th career NHL point.