EDMONTON – The Edmonton Oilers really had no place to go but up, however any progress in the right direction is welcome this season.
Matt Hendricks scored a pair of goals as the Edmonton Oilers snapped a two-game losing skid with a 5-2 victory over the visiting New York Islanders on Sunday.
Jordan Eberle, Derek Roy and Matt Fraser also scored for the Oilers (9-22-9), who won for just the third time in their past 25 games.
Edmonton is, however, 2-0-2 in its last four games since interim head coach Todd Nelson took sole possession of the Oilers bench, with general manager Craig MacTavish moving back upstairs.
Hendricks said there has been a noticeable difference in the team of late.
“We’ve talked about our team game. It’s been improving night in and night out,” he said. “The practices have been improving. There is more energy in the room right now and you can just sense that we have been knocking on the doorstep the last few games. A couple of overtime losses and a shootout win. It was a big team effort tonight and a good feeling.”
Eberle agreed that the Oilers seem to be getting out from under the dark cloud that has seen them sitting in last place in the NHL for the bulk of the season.
“We’re playing a more aggressive style,” he said. “We have a bit better of an identity as to the way we want to play right now. It’s obviously turning into some wins. When you win it gives you more confidence in playing that way.”
Coach Nelson was also pleased to win a game in regulation as his team had gone to extra time in its three previous outings.
“It’s a relief,” he said. “It was nice to get the goal support tonight and Ben (Scrivens) was very good in net and made some very timely saves. There were a lot of really solid efforts from a number of individuals.”
Johnny Boychuk and Brock Nelson replied with the goals for the Islanders (26-12-1), who saw a three-game winning streak come to an end.
“We were slow coming out and we let them do some things they wanted to do. Give them some credit, but it was slow and out-worked and just not good enough,” said Islanders captain John Tavares. “It starts with me and being on for three goals against isn’t acceptable either. We need a better effort than that, I don’t care how good things have been going. We can’t get complacent, we just didn’t play very well.”
New York head coach Jack Capuano inferred that there were a number of players on his team that seemed to have taken a night off.
“I thought we had some guys that were downright pretty bad,” he said. “We gave them three gifts and an empty-netter. We were physical, we did a lot of good things, but at the end of the day it’s about execution and there are some guys that need to look in the mirror.”
The Islanders are, nonetheless, 7-2-1 in their last 10 games.
Edmonton started the scoring with three minutes left in the first period as newly-acquired Rob Klinkhammer stole the puck from Islanders goalie Jaroslav Halak behind the net and got it to Hendricks, who looped in front and deposited it into the wide-open net.
It was the first time in seven games that the Islanders allowed a first-period goal.
New York had 10 shots on Oilers starter Scrivens in the opening frame, to five for Edmonton on Halak.
The Oilers made it 2-0 eight seconds into the second period as Taylor Hall made a nice cross-ice pass to an unmarked Eberle, who scored his eighth of the season stick-side on Halak.
The Islanders got one of those goals back on the power play four minutes into the middle frame as a Boychuk blast from the point cleanly beat Scrivens.
Edmonton had a great chance to regain the two-goal lead with five minutes left in the second period after a great chance for the Islanders at the other end yielded a two-on-none break for Roy and Teddy Purcell on a crease-clearing pass from Oscar Klefbom. However, the Oilers duo passed at least one too many times on the play and missed getting a shot on goal.
“We really haven’t practised that,” Roy chuckled. “We’ll work on it tomorrow. It just bounced over my stick. I had the empty net.”
The shots were even at 19 apiece after 40 minutes.
Edmonton took a 3-1 lead two-and-a-half minutes into the third period as Islanders defender Lubomir Visnovsky lost control of a puck and sent it in front of his own net where Roy was able to snap home his first goal as an Oiler since being acquired via a trade with Nashville.
Scrivens kept the Islanders at bay with a huge glove save in tight on Tavares midway through the third.
The Oilers put the game away with two-and-a-half minutes left as Hendricks scored his second of the game and fifth of the season from his knees into an empty net.
Just 17 seconds later, Edmonton made it 5-1 as a Fraser shot from the top of the circle dribbled into the net after Halak got a piece of it with his glove.
The Islanders were able to make the score look a little better with a power-play goal by Nelson with 30 seconds remaining- his 15th of the season.
Scrivens finished with 33 saves while Halak stopped 18-of-22 shots.
The Oilers play the second game of a four-game homestand on Tuesday against the Detroit Red Wings. The Islanders play the fourth game of a seven-game road trip on Tuesday in Vancouver.
Notes: It was the first of two games this season between the Oilers and Islanders. New York has now lost five straight games in Edmonton, extending back to March 13, 2003… Forward Rob Klinkhammer made his debut for the Oilers after being acquired along with a 2015 first round pick from Pittsburgh for David Perron… Edmonton returned 2014 third overall draft pick Leon Draisaitl to junior on Sunday. Draisaitl, 19, tallied two goals and seven assists in 37 games as a centre for the Oilers this season. Anton Lander was called up from the AHL to take his place… Out for the Oilers were forward Tyler Pitlick (lacerated spleen) and defenceman Keith Aulie, who was serving the second of a two-game suspension… Not dressed for the Islanders were Michael Grabner (lower body) and Matt Carkner (back). The pair are both with the Islanders on their current seven-game road trip and are skating with the team, but have yet to be activated from injured reserve.