EDMONTON – The Edmonton Oilers have to be glad they didn’t let Dustin Penner get away.
Penner had two goals and three assists as the Oilers came from behind to win their third straight, defeating the Columbus Blue Jackets 6-4 on Thursday night.
After fighting back from a three-goal deficit, the Oilers took a 5-4 lead midway through the third as Derick Brassard’s missed clearing attempt came back to Oilers defenceman Lubomir Visnovsky and he blasted a shot past Columbus goalie Mathieu Garon.
Penner picked up his fifth point on the goal to give him 14 points overall, good for fourth place in NHL scoring. Penner was part of a proposed trade this summer between the Oilers and the Ottawa Senators that would have seen all-star Dany Heatley come to Edmonton, but the controversial winger nixed the deal by refusing to waive his no-trade clause.
Right now, the Oilers must be relieved the deal fell through.
“I was trying to set small goals first, I wasn’t expecting to see my name up with the league-leaders,” Penner said. “That would have to be the best game of my career, certainly statistically. The stars lined up for me and my linemates tonight.
“It feels really good. I don’t know the last time I was on a team that bounced back from down as much as we were. That’s one of the games where you know the true meaning of momentum.”
Ales Hemsky had a goal and four helpers and Sam Gagner also had a goal and two assists for the Oilers (6-2-1) who have now won five of their last six.
“It’s huge for us to win a game like this,” Hemsky said. “It’s very good for our confidence. Hopefully we can build on this.”
It was the first time head coach Pat Quinn put together the Penner-Hemsky-Gagner combo and it is pretty safe to say the experiment paid off.
“That was a pretty good line tonight,” he said. “All three of them were excellent. They played against that Rick Nash unit most of the night and seemed to relish in the challenge. I think it helped them stay sharp. “I’m really proud of the way we stuck together as a team and came back. It was a pretty good result at the end of the night but I don’t know if I want to do that rollercoaster every night.”
Robert Nilsson put the game away for good with an empty-netter with 17 seconds left.
Kristian Huselius had a pair and Raffi Torres and Jason Chimera had the others for the Blue Jackets (5-3-0), who have lost the first two of a four game road trip.
“We really shot ourselves in the foot,” Nash said. “We had that game, up 4-1 on the road. We should definitely have won that. Our power play wasn’t very good. We have to get over this one quick. We’ll move on. It’s a long season.”
Edmonton struck quickly to take a 1-0 lead just 58 seconds in as Penner backhanded a rebound in front of the net to Gagner, who blasted his fourth of the season.
Columbus finally took advantage of some sloppy play in the Edmonton zone as Jakub Voracek got a shot away with Denis Grebeshkov draped all over him. Oilers goalie Nikolai Khabibulin made the initial stick save but Huselius narrowly caught the corner with the rebound.
The Blue Jackets took a 2-1 lead with just 24 seconds left in the opening frame as R.J. Umberger sent a nice pass from behind the net through Grebeshkov’s legs to Torres who snapped home his fourth on the power play.
Columbus grabbed a two-goal lead two minutes into the second period as Voracek made a nice spin-around pass to a trailing Huselius, who blasted his second of the game.
The Jackets made it a three-goal game with eight minutes to play in the second when Chimera lifted a backhand shot over Khabibulin to make it 4-1.
The Oilers, however, responded just 17 seconds later as Hemsky found Penner open at the side of the net for his sixth.
Edmonton made it 4-3 with a minute to play in the second as Visnovsky faked a shot from the point and hit Hemsky at the side of the net for a power-play goal at a tough angle. It was just the second power-play goal the Blue Jackets had allowed all season.
The Oilers tied it six minutes into the third on another power-play goal as Penner unleashed a rocket past Garon to knot the game.
Both teams return to action on Saturday as the Blue Jackets continue their road trip in Anaheim while the Oilers travel to Calgary to play the Flames.
Notes: Oilers forward Gilbert Brule missed his second consecutive game with the flu that has swept through the Edmonton dressing room. Mike Comrie and Ladislav Smid both played despite fighting the bug. … Oilers bruiser Steve MacIntyre dressed for the first time this season, replacing Ryan Stone who will miss between two and four weeks with a knee injury suffered in Edmonton’s last game against Vancouver. … Blue Jackets forward Nikita Filatov played after being a healthy scratch the past three games. … Columbus goalie and former Oiler Mathieu Garon started in goal for just the second time this season. … Columbus came into the match with the top ranked penalty killing in the league, only allowing one goal in 29 attempts. They allowed three in this game. Edmonton and Columbus split their four games against each other last year.