EDMONTON – The Edmonton Oilers finally flipped the switch after stumbling at the start of the NHL season.
Jordan Eberle and David Perron scored in the shootout as the Oilers rallied from a three-goal deficit for a 5-4 victory over the New Jersey Devils on Monday.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Andrew Ference, Perron and Taylor Hall all scored in the third period as the Oilers (1-2-0) earned their first win of the season. The victory helped Edmonton avoid its worst start to a season since the 1995-96 campaign when it went 0-4 out of the gate.
“It’s tough to explain, but I’m glad we bounced back the way we did,” said Perron. “To lose the first three would have been a pretty tough way to start the year. I know everyone was pretty eager to get that first win and now we can look forward to new things and keep moving.”
Ference, who was named the 14th captain in Oilers history, said the team just needed to get over the early-season jitters.
“We just want to win so bad, you see it with teams at the start of the year, if you can’t get in the win column right away,” he said. “You can’t be out there scared to lose. There is an element of fear in every person that plays sports, but that has to be out-weighed by the desire to win and you can’t be paralyzed with the fear of losing.”
The first win of the season doubled as the first career NHL victory as a head coach for Dallas Eakins.
“If you lose one game, it’s not hanging over your head, but I felt that they were feeling the challenge of us having lost two games and they didn’t want to get it to three,” said Eakins. “I just asked them to stay with it and believe in themselves and they did, they finally got rewarded for their hard work and their patience.”
Jaromir Jagr, Damien Brunner, Michael Ryder and Patrik Elias scored for the Devils (0-1-2), who are just one of five teams in the NHL yet to capture their first victory of the season.
“It’s a learning experience for us early in the season and we’ve got to be better, said Devils head coach Peter DeBoer. “I don’t like leaving points on the table like that, especially after being up 3-0.
“The puck bounced right for them in the third period, and they capitalized, to their credit. It was a strange game.”
Veteran Devils goalie Martin Brodeur said it is a rarity to let a game get a way like this one did.
“We dominated for most of the game and then took a tough penalty and from there it got a bit chaotic. It was a tough one,” he said. “Things like what happened tonight don’t happen too often. We are a veteran team and we should be able to play better under that kind of pressure. They are a good, young team, but we had them exactly where we wanted them.”
New Jersey built a 3-0 lead in the first two periods before Nugent-Hopkins, making his season debut, scored after a mad scramble on a power play in front of Martin Brodeur in the Devils’ net.
Nugent-Hopkins missed the first two games of the season as he recovered from shoulder surgery.
The goal spoiled Brodeur’s shutout bid. There are only three teams that the veteran goalie has not recorded a shutout against in his 21-season career—Edmonton, Nashville and San Jose.
Edmonton made it 3-2 with 9:28 into the third period as Ference scored on a point shot through traffic.
The momentum shifted firmly in Edmonton’s favour as Perron plucked the puck out of a face-off in the Devils end and picked the corner for his first goal as an Oiler. He came to Edmonton in an off-season trade with St. Louis.
After tying the game up 3-3 with eight minutes to play, the Oilers took their first lead of the contest two minutes later as Ales Hemsky chipped a puck off the boards to Hall, who was alone in front and slipped the puck through Brodeur’s legs.
However, the Devils were able to tie the game 4-4 with just 54 seconds left while shorthanded as Elias threw a puck on net that banked off Ference’s skate and into the net with Brodeur on the bench to send the game to the eventual shootout.
New Jersey scored on the game’s first shot three minutes in to the first period as Jagr brought it in himself and button-hooked into the slot before sending his first of the season past Oilers goalie Jason LaBarbera.
Brunner made it 2-0 for the Devils fives minutes later on the power play. He faked a shot at the top of the circle and then elected to shoot, putting it stick-side past LaBarbera.
Edmonton’s best chance in the first came with a man advantage of its own with two minutes to play when Hemsky had an open net to shoot the puck into with Brodeur going the other way, but defender Anton Volchenkov fished it to safety.
The Devils surged ahead 3-0 at the 4:34 mark of the second period as a giveaway deep in Oilers territory led to a two-on-one with Ryder electing to shoot himself, rifling his second of the season in the top corner.
The Devils are right back at it on Tuesday night in Vancouver against the Canucks in the second game of a five-game trip. The Oilers are off until Thursday when they host the Montreal Canadiens.
Notes – The last time the Devils and Oilers played each other, New Jersey pulled out a 2-1 overtime win at Rexall Place on Jan. 11, 2012…Damien Brunner scored three of the New Jersey’s first five goals this season…With games on back-to-back nights, Brodeur was given the start for the Devils so that off-season trade acquisition Cory Schneider could get the nod against his old team, the Canucks, on Tuesday…Nugent-Hopkins, the first overall selection in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, made his season debut after having shoulder surgery last April…The Devils started their road trip with a completely healthy lineup…Edmonton had veteran forward Ryan Smyth sitting out as a healthy scratch, opting to inject recent call-up Ryan Hamilton into the lineup.