EDMONTON – The Edmonton Oilers knew they had a pretty decent chance to beat the St. Louis Blues in a shootout. The problem was actually getting that far.
Ales Kotalik scored the shootout winner as the Oilers got their heads back above the water in the Western Conference playoff race with a 2-1 victory over the hard-charging Blues on Tuesday night.
Sheldon Souray also scored for the Oilers (33-27-9), who ended a three-game skid of consecutive overtime losses and moved into a tie with Nashville for seventh in the West with 75 points.
“We got the game into the shootout, which wasn’t something we had been able to do in the last few games we have played,” Souray said. “To get one more point than they got is huge for us at this point.”
Kotalik, acquired in a trade-deadline deal with Buffalo partly for his shootout success, tied Atlanta’s Vyacheslav Kozlov for the league record for shootout winners with 10.
“Those situations are crucial right now at this point of the season,” he said. “To be able to contribute this way to help the guys get a huge two points felt pretty good. I’m thrilled and happy for all the guys on this team to get a win after putting so much effort into this game.”
Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish considered Tuesday’s effort one of the best in recent memory.
“It was a much better game by our team,” he said. “It was our best game in quite some time. We started well and had good energy, which hasn’t always been the case of late.”
David Backes responded for the Blues (32-29-9), who have lost two of their last three after making a major move up the Western Conference ladder with seven wins in 10 games. The Blues are three points back of the Oilers and Predators.
“We’re scratching and clawing and fighting for every point that we’re getting,” said Blues goalie Chris Mason. “We fought for our point tonight. We would have liked to have had two but we’ll take the one and move on and we’ve got a couple of tough games against Vancouver and Calgary coming up.”
St. Louis head coach Andy Murray said it is important his team remember how far they have come of late.
“I asked the guys after the game where we were on Jan. 1 and what did the picture look like for us this year in terms of pursuing a Stanley Cup and the picture didn’t look too good,” he said. “But we have scratched and clawed and battled our way back into this picture. We’re going one game at a time.”
The Oilers dodged a bullet eight minutes in as goalie Dwayne Roloson came almost out to the blue-line in the pursuit of a puck and gave it away, but the Blues were unable to get a shot on the empty net.
Edmonton ended up getting the first goal just over 10 minutes in on the power play. Souray unleashed a slapshot from the point to beat Mason for his 20th goal of the season.
The first period shots favoured Edmonton 15-12.
The Blues tied the game just two minutes into the second on a power play of their own as Backes took a pass at the side of the net and did a good job cutting in front and depositing the puck behind Roloson.
The game remained 1-1 through 40 minutes.
The Oilers had the best chance of the scoreless third period with just 55 seconds left. Mason robbed Andrew Cogliano with a quick glove-hand save in tight to send the contest to the eventual shootout.
Both teams play their next games on Thursday as the Oilers start a three-game trip in Colorado and the Blues continue their Western road swing in Vancouver.
Notes: It was the fourth and final meeting between the two teams this year with Edmonton winning the previous three encounters. Edmonton The Oilers entered the contest with wins in their last six meetings with St. Louis overall. Oiler Dwayne Roloson made his 25th consecutive start in the Edmonton net In the Blues’ goal Chris Mason has really turned his season around going 15-6-4 since a tough 3-13-1 start Oiler defenceman Ladislav Smid returned to the lineup after missing his team’s last outing with a neck injury.