COLUMBUS, Ohio – There’s no place like home. Just ask the Edmonton Oilers.
Kristian Huselius had a goal and three assists Monday night to lead the Columbus Blue Jackets past Edmonton 5-3, adding to the Oilers’ road woes. Asked about his team’s road troubles of late, Oilers coach Pat Quinn cracked, “Of late?”
Edmonton is just 1-14-1 away from home since mid-December.
“We haven’t recovered from the loss of certain personnel,” Quinn continued, referring to injuries to frontliners such as Ales Hemsky, Sheldon Souray and Nikolai Khabibulin. “We have got ourselves in a mentality that we’re poor guys that have had some misfortune that’s happened. We’re not mentally tough enough to play through those things for long periods of time.”
Antoine Vermette added a goal and two assists and Jake Voracek, Chris Clark and Marc Methot also scored for the Blue Jackets, who totalled only three goals in their previous two games. Derek Dorsett chipped in with two assists for the first multi-point game of his 91-game career.
It was a wild, wide-open game full of odd-man rushes.
“There were a lot of up and downs,” Huselius said. “We played well for some time, then we lost the momentum and they came back and set the tempo.”
The erratic play wasn’t a surprise, since the two teams rank last (Edmonton) and third-to-last (Columbus) in the NHL in goals allowed.
“Obviously, we like to play a little wide open with pinching in the offensive zone,” said Aaron Johnson, who along with Robert Nilsson had a goal and an assist for the Oilers. “But there were a couple of times we just got caught out of position.”
Dustin Penner also scored for the Oilers, who have lost four in a row and are just 3-10-1 in their last 14 games.
Clark made it 2-1 at 4:30 of the second when he scored off a quick wrister from near the top of the right circle. It was his third goal since being acquired in a trade from Washington in December.
Methot turned a cross-ice pass from Vermette into a 3-1 lead in the opening minute of the third period.
But the rest of the game was in doubt until Vermette’s goal into an empty net with 55 seconds left.
“At the end of the day, you want to win. It’s a different situation, I won’t lie,” Vermette said of the Blue Jackets, who are also far removed from a playoff run. “It’s a tough situation to be in – your first time facing that challenge, not being in the playoff. It’s not fun.”
Andrew Cogliano dug a puck off the short boards and then slid a pass through Huselius’s skates to Penner for his 26th, cutting the lead to 3-2.
After Huselius pushed the lead back to two goals with a breakaway slapshot that handcuffed goalie Devan Dubnyk and then trickled across the goal-line, the Oilers cut it to 4-3 when Johnson pounced on a rebound at 7:45 of the third.
There were momentum changes and prime scoring opportunities on both sides the rest of the way until the Blue Jackets took advantage when Dubnyk was pulled for the extra attacker in the final minute.
Steve Mason finished with 29 saves for Columbus, which may not have top defender Jan Hejda the rest of the season. He sustained a lower-body injury in the first period and did not return. Interim coach Claude Noel said, “He will be out for a few weeks.”
Meanwhile, the Oilers are having trouble overcoming missing teammates and their own mistakes.
“We’re OK, we do some good stuff – but not good enough to win,” Quinn said. “At the end of the night, in a game that’s up for grabs, we’ve been in a lot of them but we don’t grab it. We don’t reach out and take it. On a night like tonight, it was our veterans that kind of let it get away from us.”
NOTES: The game was the third of a four-game road trip for the Oilers. … Vermette set a career high with 55 points. … Columbus D Fedor Tyutin played in his 400th career game. … The Blue Jackets won three of the four season meetings.