EDMONTON – The way things have been going of late for the Edmonton Oilers all they care about is getting the win, not how they got it.
Actually, the way they won Saturday was pretty much the standard for them this season as Sam Gagner scored in the skills session to lead the Oilers to their league leading 11th shootout victory of the season, defeating the New York Rangers 3-2.
It was Gagner’s fourth shootout winner of the year, tops in the league and one short of an NHL record.
Jarret Stoll and Shawn Horcoff had the goals in regulation for the Oilers (18-21-4) who recorded only their second win in their last nine to kick off a five game home-stand.
Horcoff says it doesn’t matter how you win them, so long as you do.
“Right now we aren’t in a situation to be picky about how we get wins,” he said. “Beggars can’t be choosers. We are certainly very comfortable in the shootouts though. When we go to them we don’t feel it is a negative thing.”
Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish reserved most of his praise for goalie Mathieu Garon who is now 7-0 in shootouts this year, stopping 21 of 23 shots.
“I love the aggressiveness that he demonstrates in coming out and challenging the shooters,” he said. “I don’t know why more goalies don’t employ that strategy. The shooters get a lot of the credit but the way he has been playing all we need is one goal out of the three and usually that is enough.”
It was the third straight start for Garon who is slated to be the go-to guy for the team during their run at home, eclipsing normal starter Dwayne Roloson.
“It’s a critical stretch here,” MacTavish said. “It’s not a reflection of the way Dwayne has played, it is a reflection that Matty has played.
“You want to give yourself the best chance. It is not a big difference between the two but I really feel Matty is deserving of the opportunity based on the way he has played.”
Dan Girardi and Chris Drury scored for the Rangers (20-17-5), who suffered their third loss in a row to conclude a three game Western Canadian swing and have yet to defeat a Western Conference opponent this season in seven attempts.
“In our three road games here somehow the puck seems to bounce the wrong way for us,” said Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist.
“We are playing well but we aren’t getting the results. And that’s what matters right now. We need the points. We need to keep working hard and hopefully it turns around.”
With the game tied 1-1 with 9:07 to go, Ranger forward Ryan Hollweg took a five-minute major for checking Horcoff from behind and Martin Straka went off for holding soon thereafter. The two-man advantage allowed the Oilers to strike for a power-play goal and take a 2-1 lead as Ales Hemsky sent a pass through the top of the crease to Horcoff who deposited his 17th of the season into the New York net.
But the Rangers were able to send the game to overtime, scoring with just 6.2 seconds to play on a power play of their own and with Lundqvist on the bench as Jaromir Jagr found Drury at the side of the net and he scored while on his knees.
Both teams had power play opportunities in the overtime but neither was able to connect.
Gagner scored the only goal in the shootout as Garon made three stops in the Edmonton net.
The Rangers had the best chance in the scoreless first with eight minutes remaining as Brendan Shanahan took a feed at the doorstep but Garon came across quickly to make the big stop. Edmonton had nine shots on Lundqvist to the Rangers’ seven.
Edmonton finally got the game’s first goal 11 minutes into the second period as Stoll’s power-play point shot deflected off the stick of Drury and turned into a knuckleball, fluttering past Lundqvist for a 1-0 Oilers lead.
New York came close to getting the equalizer as sustained pressure almost paid off late in the middle frame. A shot by Sean Avery got past Garon but rang off the post.
The Rangers were able to tie the game with 8:07 to go in the third as Edmonton had trouble clearing the puck and Girardi picked it up at the blue-line and sent a high shot that seemed to fool Garon into the net to make it 1-1.
Edmonton plays the second game of their important home-stand on Monday against the New York Islanders while the Rangers next see action on Tuesday when they play host to Tampa Bay.
Notes: Rangers veteran Brendan Shanahan, who had returned from missing his first game of the season due to muscle spasms in his neck, left the game midway through the third with a knee injury after a collision with Edmonton’s Dustin Penner The Oilers have become everybody’s favourite opponent of late. Edmonton has now gone an unbelievable 16 straight games where they had allowed their opponent at least one point. They have now gone 6-7-3 in that stretch with all of their wins coming in OT or via the shootout Edmonton received some injury relief with two key players returning to the lineup against the Rangers. Forward Ales Hemsky came back after missing the last five games with a knee injury and defenceman Sheldon Souray returned after missing their last game to have a nagging shoulder problem reassessed. Souray missed two months with a separated shoulder earlier this season It’s been more than six years since the Rangers last paid a visit to Edmonton on Jan, 2, 2002.