EDMONTON – The pre-game hype was all on top draft pick Taylor Hall, but it was the guy drafted the year before that stole the show for the Edmonton Oilers.
Rookie Magnus Paajarvi, selected 10th overall in the 2009 entry draft, scored a hat trick and added an assist in an impressive Oilers debut as Edmonton defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-2 in their pre-season home opener on Thursday.
“It felt awesome to be able to do what I did out there in my first game,” said Paajarvi. “It’s just unbelievable to be here and playing with NHL players. I’m still taking it all in. I already feel very comfortable. All credit to my linemates. They are great to play with. Today was a great day for the whole team.”
Hall and Andrew Cogliano also scored for the Oilers, now 2-0 in exhibition play.
Getting a goal in his first taste of NHL action was also a confidence builder for Hall, who added he was also thrilled for Paajarvi.
“It’s nice to contribute.” Hall said. “It was pretty special to see Magnus have a game like that. He is a good friend already and to see him do well is great. I hope he keeps it up all year.”
Oilers head coach Tom Renney was pleased with what he saw from not just the rookies, but the whole team.
“They did well,” he said. “They have been waiting for a while and were excited about it. I liked the work habits and the thought process. I like the fact that they are sponges as well.”
Randy Jones and Carter Ashton had the goals for the Lightning, who dropped to 2-1 in the pre-season.
The Lightning started the scoring four and a half minutes in as Randy Jones took a two-on-one feed from Teddy Purcell and beat Oilers starter Devan Dubnyk glove side.
Edmonton came close to tying it up less than a minute later as 2010 first overall draft pick Hall, making his Oiler debut, hit the post behind Tampa goalie Dan Ellis.
The Oilers tied the game with five minutes to play in the opening frame as highly-touted Swedish rookie Paajarvi made a beautiful move four-on-four to split the defence, only to score an ugly goal as he fanned on his shot and watched it slide through Ellis’ legs.
“Just when I was about to shoot it I think I got a stick and got out of balance,” Paajarvi said. “Obviously I got lucky. But sometimes those goals can get you going.”
Edmonton went ahead 2-1 late in the first after some nice passing on the power play as free-agent acquisition Kurtis Foster made a nice feed to Cogliano in front of the net for the tip in.
Paajarvi notched his third point of the night and second goal on the power play as he came streaking in from the point and took a Dustin Penner pass before sending a bullet past Ellis.
Tampa Bay came close to getting their first goal with the man advantage a minute later. Dubnyk was forced to make a pair of point blank saves and was then bailed out by defenceman Shawn Belle, who scooped away a puck that was rolling into the net.
Hall got in on the scoring with a power-play goal of his own eight minutes into the third. Hall intercepted a poor clearing attempt by Ellis and then showed some patience waiting for the goalie to go down before calmly sliding the puck home to make it 4-1 for Edmonton.
But Paajarvi made sure he remained the story a couple minutes later, putting a deceptive shot from the sideboards into the net while shorthanded for his third goal, earning a shower of hats.
“They don’t throw hats back home,” Paajarvi said. “That was really cool. I have never experienced something like that before.”
With Steve MacIntyre in the box for four minutes, the Lightning finally scored on their ninth power play as Ashton put one past Jeff Deslauriers, who came in to replace Dubnyk midway through the game.
The Lightning next play in Calgary on Saturday while the Oilers are off until Sunday when they host the Vancouver Canucks.
Notes: Tampa Bay did not dress a number of their big name players including Steven Stamkos, Vincent Lecavalier, Simon Gagne, Martin St. Louis and Victor Hedman. . . The Oilers still have 45 players in camp but planned on making another round of cuts before their next game. . . Oilers goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin, who hasn’t played since November, still hasn’t suited up for the team in the pre-season despite being listed as healthy. The team is said tobe wary of rushing him and plans on playing him in two games before the start of regular season play.