Florida 4 Edmonton 2
EDMONTON — The Florida Panthers don’t seem to mind being on the road.
Tomas Kopecky scored the game winner and Jussi Jokinen recorded a pair of assists as the Panthers stretched their winning streak to three games with a 4-2 victory over the Edmonton Oilers on Sunday.
Jimmy Hayes, Brian Campbell and Sean Bergenheim also scored for the Panthers (20-11-9), who are 4-1-0 through the first five games of a six-game road trip and 11-6-6 in road games overall this season.
“I don’t think we were at our best tonight, but we found a way to get it done,” Campbell said. “It’s a big game, getting towards the end of the trip, you have to keep the pedal down.”
Florida goalie Roberto Luongo said his team’s key to winning is overall team play.
“We’ve got four balanced lines, they’ve been chipping in offensively which is nice and we’ve been finding ways to win hockey games,” he said. “We have one more big game left on this trip, so we’ll enjoy tonight and refocus on the next one.”
Panthers head coach Gerard Gallant said Sunday’s win was a pretty good example of that team-first philosophy.
“That’s how you’re going to win with our hockey team,” he said. “You look at our lineup, we don’t have an 80, 90-point guy, so we have a bunch of guys chipping in, working hard.
“We play four lines all the D play and they all chipped in tonight.”
Jordan Eberle and Benoit Pouliot responded for the Oilers (10-24-9), who have only four wins to show from their past 28 games.
“We had some very costly errors at bad times,” said Oilers assistant captain Taylor Hall. “That was our downfall. I don’t think we played bad, I just thought there were some really key moments in the game where we didn’t do our jobs.”
Oilers forward Boyd Gordon said his team is one that can’t afford to make too many mistakes.
“We were a little bit sloppy tonight,” he said.
“We were hanging around, but we couldn’t find a way to get on to the winning side. Our first period was a bit all over the place. We haven’t found a way to put a full 60 minutes together, and until we do that, we aren’t going to win too many games.”
The Panthers were first on the scoreboard four minutes into the first period.
A defensive breakdown allowed Hayes to pick up a loose puck in front of the Edmonton net before spinning around and beating Oilers starter Ben Scrivens for his 13th goal of the season.
Florida came close to adding to its lead with six minutes to play in the first when a Jonathan Huberdeau shot rang off the post behind Scrivens.
The Panthers had 11 shots in the opening frame to Edmonton’s nine on Florida goalie Roberto Luongo.
After Scrivens made a huge save on a two-on-one to start the second period, Edmonton tied the game 1-1 four minutes in as several Oilers had whacks at a loose puck during a scramble in front of the Panthers net before Eberle was able to flip in a backhand shot for his 11th goal of the year.
Florida made it 2-1 seven minutes into the second as a Campbell wrist shot from the point deflected off of the stick of Oiler Matt Hendricks and completely fooled Scrivens, who didn’t even wave at it.
The two teams traded goals just 32 seconds apart, five minutes into the third period.
Florida made it 3-1 as it won a race for a puck behind the Edmonton net before Derek MacKenzie fed it in front to set up a quick one-timer goal by Kopecky.
The Oilers responded quickly with a delayed penalty coming their way as Pouliot scored his second goal in as many games during another scramble in front of the Florida net.
The Panthers took a two-goal lead with four-and-a-half minutes to play as Nail Yakupov had his pocket picked and then the puck hopped over the stick of Andrew Ference, allowing Bergenheim to walk in and tuck the puck past Scrivens.
“I felt like we were going to come back in that game and then a couple of turnovers on one play and it ends up in the back of our net,” Eberle said. “That’s what happens when you do that in this league.”
Luongo made 31 saves in the victory.
Both teams return to action on Tuesday as the Panthers will close out a six-game road trip in Winnipeg against the Jets. The Oilers will start a four-game road swing in St. Louis.
Notes: It was the first of two games between the teams this year, the second coming in a week on Saturday, Jan. 17. Edmonton won both match-ups with the Panthers last year with Oilers centre Ryan Nugent-Hopkins recording five assists in the two-game set. Florida came into the game without a win in Edmonton since December 11th, 2008b& Scrivens was playing in his fourth career game against the Panthers, having recorded two shutouts in his previous three starts against Florida Each team will have only one representative at the upcoming NHL All-Star Game. Selected for Florida was Luongo, while Nugent-Hopkins will suit up for Edmontonb& Panthers centre Aleksander Barkov missed the game with a bout of the flu while Shawn Thornton remained out with a groin injuryb& The lone injury for Edmonton is forward Tyler Pitlick (lacerated spleen).