EDMONTON – Linus Omark saved the best for last in his first NHL game.
The Swedish rookie scored a highlight-reel goal in the shootout Friday as the Oilers won for the fifth time in their last six games, defeating the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-3.
Omark scored in the shootout with a terrific spin move and fake slapshot, while goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin robbed Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos at the other end with a quick glove save.
Jordan Eberle also scored in the shootout for Edmonton, while Tampa Bay’s Marc-Antoine Pouliot was stopped by Khabibulin.
Omark, a 23-year old prospect called up from the American Hockey League this week, admitted to some nerves in his first game.
“I’m glad it is over,” he said. “I was nervous in the beginning. In the next game I won’t be. I know I can do something at this level now, so that’s good.”
Omark’s spin move in his first ever NHL shootout reportedly left some players steaming in the Lightning locker-room.
Magnus Paajarvi, Taylor Hall and Tom Gilbert scored in regulation for the surging Oilers (11-12-5), who have gone 7-2-1 in their last 10 games. Khabibulin finished the game with 38 saves.
Oilers head coach Tom Renney said his team was fortunate to get any points at all after being outshot 17-1 in the third.
“We dodged a bullet tonight,” he said. “Tampa may have deserved a better fate. Khabibulin was outstanding. We scored some timely goals but turned the puck over a lot.”
Hall said that while it wasn’t always pretty, the Oilers will certainly take it.
“We need those points,” he said. “You never know what points are going to matter at the end of the year.”
Randy Jones, Ryan Malone and Stamkos responded for the Lightning (15-10-4), who have lost two in a row and five of their last seven.
Stamkos definitely felt that his team deserved better.
“I don’t know if they even got a shot in the third period,” he said. “We absolutely dominated them, their goalie made some big saves. We didn’t deserve that kind of fate tonight. We got the point, we battled back, we threw everything at them in the third and they got some big saves.”
Stamkos broke a six-game goal drought and now has 22 on the season, second behind Sidney Crosby’s league-leading 26.
“It’s my first little slump, hopefully it’s the last,” he said. “But it’s going to happen. Every player goes through it once in a while, I’d rather get it out of the way in the first half of the season and bear down in the next couple games.”
Tampa Bay started the scoring five minutes into the first period after prolonged pressure in the Edmonton zone. A Jones point shot hit the stick of Oiler newcomer Ryan O’Marra and deflected past Khabibulin.
Edmonton tied the game six minutes later as Dustin Penner dropped a pass to Paajarvi as he crossed the blue-line. The Oiler rookie blew a long shot past Lightning starter Dan Ellis.
The Lightning regained the one-goal edge with two minutes left in the opening frame on the power play. Edmonton’s Sam Gagner whiffed on a chance to clear a big rebound and Malone pounced in to shoot the puck into the open cage.
The Oilers tied the game 2-2 six minutes into the third as Hall and O’Marra went in on a 2-on-1 break. O’Marra missed his shot but Hall swung the rebound behind the net and roofed his 10th of the season.
Edmonton took its first lead of the game with three and a half minutes left to go in the second as Gilbert rushed in from the point to backhand home on a rebound on the power play. Omark picked up an assist on the play for his first NHL point.
The Lightning tied the game up again with 8 1/2 minutes to go in the third as Martin St. Louis made a nice backhand feed to Stamkos to make it 3-3.
Tampa Bay badly outshot Edmonton in the third but the Oilers were able to force overtime thanks to Khabibulin.
The Lightning are in Vancouver on Saturday with the Canucks then travelling to Edmonton to face the Oilers on Sunday.
Notes: It was the only meeting this season between the two teams. Edmonton won the lone game against the Lightning last year 3-2 in Tampa. … Omark was called up from the Oilers AHL affiliate in Oklahoma City along with O’Marra to take the place of injured forwards Ales Hemsky and Shawn Horcoff. O’Marra played three games for the Oilers last year. The pair played on a line with Ryan Jones. … Horcoff will be out two months but will not require surgery on his injured right knee. … Lightning captain Vincent Lecavalier (right hand surgery) is still several weeks away from returning, while right wing Steve Downie is out three to four weeks with an ankle injury.