EDMONTON – Ryan Smyth certainly seems happy to be home.
Smyth scored a pair of goals as the Edmonton Oilers won their fifth game in a row, beating the St. Louis Blues 4-2 on Sunday.
Shawn Horcoff and Jordan Eberle also scored for the Oilers (7-2-2), who improved to 6-1-1 at home and moved back into first place in the Western Conference with the win.
Drafted by the Oilers sixth overall in the 1994 draft, Smyth was the face of the team for about a decade before leaving Edmonton in a shocking deadline deal to the New York Islanders in 2007.
The Alberta native returned in the offseason after requesting a trade from Los Angeles to Edmonton and is tied for second in team scoring with five goals and five assists in 11 games.
“It’s a lot of fun playing for this team right now,” Smyth said. “The excitement, the energy from day to day, the creativity that the young kids bring, it’s all awesome. We just want to keep going. We have some momentum and we have to make sure we keep it going in the right direction.”
Oilers head coach Tom Renney said Smyth has been everything they hoped for and more in his second stint in Edmonton.
“He’s such a good leader. He’s just an Oiler,” he said. “I’m very proud of the fact that it means so much for him to be here. He really tries to lead by example and say the right thing and play the right way.
“He’s a heart and soul guy. You need your young guys to see what that looks like and feels like and what it means to a person if we are going to win a Stanley Cup here.”
Davis Backes and Alex Pietrangelo responded for the Blues (5-6-0), who have lost two in a row on the heels of a three-game winning streak.
“This is a game we really wanted to get before we have a long break,” said Blues defenceman Kevin Shattenkirk. “They came out hard and played a great game and we couldn’t capitalize on our chances. The feeling in the locker-room is that this game is on us, not on our goalie. We hung him out to dry tonight.”
The Oilers struck first five and a half minutes into the match as Ryan Nugent-Hopkins made a perfect pass to a streaking Horcoff, who shovelled a power-play goal past Blues starter Jaroslav Halak.
Edmonton had a good chance to add to its lead with seven minutes remaining as Taylor Hall got a short-handed breakaway, but Halak closed the five-hole in time to deny him.
Oilers goalie Nikolai Khabibulin made a pair of saves with Chris Stewart on the doorstep in the dying seconds of the first to keep it a 1-0 game.
St. Louis tied the game four minutes into the second period on a nice play by Backes as he used Jeff Petry as a screen and fired a bullet under the bar to beat Khabibulin.
Edmonton regained its lead three minutes later as Smyth snapped up a deflected Alex Plante point shot and stuffed the puck under the pads of a sprawling Halak.
The Oilers went down a player midway through the second period as Eric Belanger was taken to the dressing room after being slammed headfirst into the boards by Vladimir Sobotka. He would return for the third period.
Edmonton went up 3-1 with seven minutes left on a fluke goal as a Hall pass hit Eberle’s skate and caromed through Halak’s legs. The goal was reviewed but no kicking motion was made by Eberle.
The Oilers made it a three-goal game with three minutes to play in the second as Smyth tucked home the rebound of a Tom Gilbert power play shot for his second of the game and fifth of the season.
Edmonton continued to put the Blues on their heels with 16 second period shots and almost added another goal on a two-on-one by Eberle and Hall, but Halak made a stellar kick save on Hall’s shot.
The Blues got back into the game with a power play goal three minutes into the third as a pair of St. Louis players crashed the net and Stewart batted the puck past Khabibulin.
After two consecutive last-place finishes, forward Ryan Jones said it is nice to see the Oilers at the top of the standings in the West.
“I don’t know how many people outside of this room expected this to happen,” he said. “But we looked around and saw the character and the leadership and the skill that we had and knew this was all possible.”
The Oilers are off until Thursday when they will begin a six-game road trip in Los Angeles. The Blues return home and wait until Friday before hosting Vancouver.
Notes: Edmonton D Andy Sutton missed the game as he had an appointment to see NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan on Monday to receive a suspension for an elbow on Colorado’s Gabriel Landeskog on Friday. Petry took his place. … The Oilers also called up D Alex Plante from Oklahoma City. He replaced Cam Barker who was a late scratch with a sore shoulder…St. Louis came into the game with the league’s worst power play, scoring just once in its last 28 attempts…It was the first meeting of the season between the two teams. The Blues won three out of four matches against Edmonton last season…Edmonton had given up more than two goals in a game just once this season…Oilers F Ales Hemsky skated with the team on Sunday and should rejoin the lineup this week following a re-injury of his shoulder… The Blues were without D Kent Huskins, out after fracturing a bone in his left ankle against the Flames.