EDMONTON – The youth movement led the way for the Edmonton Oilers on Thursday night.
Linus Omark scored his first NHL goal to go with two assists and fellow rookie Jordan Eberle had a pair of goals as the Oilers beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 6-3.
Edmonton’s five rookies in the game combined for 11 points as Taylor Hall added three assists, Magnus Paarjarvi a goal and an assist and Ryan O’Marra also kicked in a helper.
“Scoring my first goal, that is a dream come true,”Omark said.“I decided before the game that I was gong to play my game and not worry about making mistakes. I felt really good.”
Dustin Penner and Sam Gagner also scored for the Oilers (12-14-5), who snapped a two-game losing skid and have gone 6-2-1 in their last nine games.
Oilers head coach Tom Renney was pleased with the result even if his team was lucky to have emerged with a lead after surviving a barrage of 23 shots in the first period.
“We just kind of slid around in the first period and watched (Nikolai Khabibulin) make some neat saves,”he said.“Then they decided to go play. You have to string three periods together for sure. But when you look at what the young guys did, it’s fun.”
Kristian Huselius scored all three goals for the Blue Jackets (16-12-3), who have lost six in a row and nine of their last 11 games overall.
It was another tough night for goalie Steve Mason, who has only one win in his last seven start. Blue Jackets head coach Scott Arneil said the decision to pull him after the first wasn’t something he wanted to do.
“We’ve got about 50 games to play and sooner or later the kid’s got to find a way to battle himself out of this,”he said.“It’s a situation where we need to win hockey games, but I talked to him after the first period and told him I was throwing him back in there and he had to find a way to battle through it.
“It’s part of him maturing as a goaltender. He’s in his own head right now and is probably his worst enemy. He has to be a big part of our hockey club if we are gong to have success.”
Edmonton scored first four minutes in as Omark, the Swedish shootout sensation known for his creative goals in Europe, made his first NHL goal a memorable one. He chipped the puck in while crossing the blue-line and then kicked the rebound up to his stick with his skate before putting it past Mason.
“That was a really good team effort,”Hall said.“We have four days before our next game, so we really wanted to end our homestand with a win. It was a lot of fun the way they were going in for us tonight.”
Columbus quickly tied the game just over a minute later as Huselius fought off Colin Fraser to get to a puck in front of the Oiler net and poked it in before Khabibulin could get across.
Just past the midmark the Oilers moved ahead 2-1 with Eberle showing poise in putting a deceptive backhand shot past Mason while being angled away from the net.
Columbus fought back to tie it up again as Huselius scored his second of the game into a wide-open cage after a rebound on the power play.
Edmonton once again regained the lead with just 31 seconds to play on a power pay, as Omark made a beautiful pass through his own legs to Penner on the doorstep.
Khabibulin was sensational in the first period as Edmonton was badly outshot 23-13. The Edmonton goalie finished the game with 37 saves on 40 shots.
The Oilers gave themselves a two-goal cushion early into the second as Eberle tipped in a Ryan Whitney shot for his second. Eberle has nine goals on the year, moving him into a tie for rookie scoring with Carolina’s Jeff Skinner and San Jose’s Logan Couture at 22 points.
It was Whitney’s second assist on the night, giving him 24 helpers but no goals on the year, though he leads the team in scoring.
“I just can’t believe I have all these points and not one of them is a goal,”Whitney said.“I’ve never experienced it. I’m really pleased with my game other than that. If I get one, even better.”
Edmonton went up 5-2 with just over five minutes left in the second frame as Omark did a nice job gaining the zone and took a shot on Mason with Paajarvi shovelling in the rebound.
It was a 6-2 Edmonton just 49 seconds later as Hall stole the puck in the Columbus zone and dished it to Gagner.
In stark contrast to the first, Edmonton outshot Columbus 15-6 in the second period.
Mathieu Garon came in to replace Mason to start the third.
Huselius finished off his hat trick with just 1:07 remaining, deflecting an Antoine Vermette shot.
Notes: It was the second meeting of the year between the two teams. The Blue Jackets won the first contest in Columbus 3-2 in a shootout in late October that featured Oilers first round pick Taylor Hall scoring his first NHL goals. … The Blue Jackets were playing their fifth game in eight nights. … Columbus forward Ethan Moreau made his first trip to Edmonton since being claimed off of waivers from the Oilers by the Jackets in the off-season. The former Oilers captain spent 11 seasons in Edmonton. … It was just Huselius’ second game back after missing 22 games with an ankle injury. … Columbus winger Jared Boll returned after missing the last three games with a back injury. … The Oilers remained without the services of Ales Hemsky (groin), Shawn Horcoff (knee) and Jim Vandermeer (ankle).