EDMONTON — Head coach Dallas Eakins needed to chew the Edmonton Oilers out after a painful first 40 minutes, and the tongue-lashing seemed to spur them on.
Taylor Hall scored the overtime winner as the Oilers rebounded from a listless start to earn a 3-2 come-from-behind victory over the New York Islanders after trailing 2-0 after the second period on Thursday night.
Oiler Sam Gagner stole the puck in the neutral zone and danced around defender Brian Strait before sending it on net, where Hall was able to slip it past goalie Evgeni Nabokov 2:29 into the overtime session.
“I had a very one-sided conversation with them,” Eakins said of the second period intermission. “I’d rather we didn’t wait until the last four minutes of the second period to get going. We have been preaching the way to play and it wasn’t until near the end of the second that we understood what we needed to do and we carried it on to the third.”
Gagner agreed that the teams needed a kick in the behind after their sorry start.
“We weren’t happy with the way we played the first two periods and we talked a lot about it in between the second and the third,” he said. “We started doing the things that make you successful in the third. We were getting pucks deep and forechecking and it was a big reason we were able to come away with the win.”
Ryan Smyth and Philip Larsen also scored for the Oilers (22-34-8), who have won two games in a row and are 7-2-2 in their last 11 games.
Frans Nielsen and Anders Lee responded for the Islanders (24-32-9), who have lost 10 of their last 13 games. The Islanders have also lost 10 games this season in which they led heading into the third period.
“I wish I had an answer for that,” said New York forward Michael Grabner. “We have to try and bare down. We had some chances on some two-on-ones that we didn’t take advantage of. We have to try and make it 3-0, and 4-0 and not just sit back.
“It’s been happening too much lately.”
Islanders coach Jack Capuano said his team simply can’t afford to let up late in a game.
“We made mistakes, we talk about this all the time,” he said. “You have to teach and you have to learn from it. At some point, they’re going to have to realize those little things, the moment you stop moving your feet or get out of position it’s going to cost you.”
New York started the scoring with a short-handed marker midway through the first period. Gagner coughed up the puck in the Islanders zone, allowing a two-on-one that saw Nielsen elect to shoot the puck himself, beating Oilers starting goalie Ben Scrivens top corner for his 19th goal of the season.
It was the 11th short-handed goal Edmonton has allowed this season.
New York made it 2-0 with a minute-and-a-half left in the opening frame as Lee was able to tip a Strait shot through Scrivens’ legs. It was the Islanders rookie’s fourth goal in just his five career NHL games.
The Islanders outshot Edmonton 13-4 in the first period.
Edmonton continued to have trouble getting quality scoring chances on Nabokov in the scoreless second period.
The Oilers had some shots late in the second to make the totals look better, but the shots still favoured New York 23-14 after 40 minutes.
Edmonton managed to avoid being shutout for the ninth time this season on a memorable power-play goal by Smyth.
Jordan Eberle made a nice feed to a hard-charging Smyth and he shovelled the puck past Nabokov. With the goal, he tied Glenn Anderson for the most power-play goals in Oilers franchise history with 126, one up on Wayne Gretzky who was at the game in advance of a team-sponsored breakfast on Friday morning.
“It’s an honour even to be mentioned with guys like Gretzky and Anderson,” Smyth said. “I played a lot longer than those guys, but they set the bar high and you want to try and match it. The way it all worked out, it was an emotional ride not knowing if I was staying or going at the trade deadline. To be here and to tie this record is awesome.”
Edmonton continued to buzz and managed to tie the game with just 3:07 left as Larsen picked the puck off the boards and went hard to the net before shooting the puck off the side of the post and in for his second of the season. Larsen has been battling dizzy spells since December and had only played in one of Edmonton’s previous 26 games.