EDMONTON – It took some time for Taylor Hall to get his NHL footing, but he seems to be off and running now.
Hall scored the winner just 23 seconds in overtime as the Edmonton Oilers extended their winning streak to four in a row, knocking off the St. Louis Blues 2-1 on Saturday.
Hall, the first overall pick in last summer’s NHL entry draft, was sent in on a breakaway by Ryan Whitney and buried his ninth of the season and third goal in the last two games.
“There are all kinds of guys on this team you would like to see get a breakaway in overtime and he leads the parade,” said Oilers head coach Tom Renney. “He has all kinds of confidence and knows exactly what he wants to do. It was a great play.”
Hall’s heroics erased a rather tepid performance overall by the Oilers.
“We were a little flat, to say the least,” Renney said. “Our goaltender (Nikolai Khabibulin) was outstanding and gave us a reason to believe we could find the way to win the game. We just found a way to muscle through it.”
Ryan Jones also scored for the Oilers (10-12-4), who have won five of their last six.
Jones said the Blues didn’t make it easy to capture the two points.
“They’re a blue-collar team and those team are hard to play against, because they control the puck,” he said. “When they do that, it takes momentum away and we’re the exact same team, so the play went back and forth and back and forth there wasn’t a lot of play in the neutral zone.”
Eric Brewer replied for the Blues (12-9-4) who have now lost five in a row, the first time they have gone that long without a victory since December of 2008.
“I thought we battled hard tonight and did some positive things,” said Blues forward Alexander Steen. “They took advantage of their chances. It was a tough one to lose. I thought if we kept going the way that we were that we were going to get the W. But sometimes it doesn’t work out and we have to keep our heads up.”
The Oilers had the best early opportunity four minutes in as a Hall shot went off the glass and hit Blues starter Jaroslav Halak in the back. The puck was heading into the net before being swept out, and Jordan Eberle followed up by ringing a shot off of the post.
St. Louis had nine first period shots on Khabibulin to Edmonton’s seven in the scoreless opening frame.
The Blues had their best chance to that point in the game with 11 minutes left in the second as they cleanly won a power-play face-off but Khabibulin was able to get over and stop a point-blank blast by Brad Boyes.
Khabibulin continued to keep his team in it with a massive pad save on an Andy McDonald shot four minutes later.
The shots after 40 minutes favoured St. Louis 24-16.
The Oilers finally broke the scoring deadlock 2:32 into the third period as Magnus Paajarvi chipped a pass over Erik Johnson to Jones on a two-on-one break and he scored his sixth of the season to make it 1-0 Edmonton.
St. Louis tied the game with six and a half minutes to play after prolonged pressure in the Edmonton zone. Brewer picked the corner for a goal, ending Khabibulin’s hopes of a second consecutive shutout and eventually sending the game to extra time.
The Blues cap off a quick two-game trip in Vancouver on Sunday. The Oilers play the second game of a season-high six-game homestand Tuesday when they host to Anaheim.
Notes: It was the first of four meetings this season between the two teams. St. Louis won three of four last year. . . Oiler forward Ales Hemsky missed his second straight game with a groin injury and is now listed as out indefinitely. Hemsky has 18 points in 21 games. . . Jones remained in Hemsky’s spot on a line with Sam Gagner and Magnus Paajarvi. . . The Blues remained down three crucial players in forwards T.J. Oshie (broken ankle) and David Perron (concussion) and top four defenceman Roman Polak (wrist surgery). . . The Blues came into the contest with no goals in their previous 16 power-play opportunities. . . Hall had a somewhat slow start to the season with seven points in his first 17 contests but entered the match with five goals and two assists in the following seven games.