EDMONTON — The Edmonton Oilers found their resolve in the third period on Sunday.
Jordan Eberle had a pair of goals as the Oilers snapped a four-game losing skid by holding on for a 5-3 upset win over the Tampa Bay Lightning.
After staking themselves to a 3-1 lead after the first period, the Oilers started to fall apart in the second, allowing the Lightning to tie the game 3-3.
“We were turning pucks over in our own end, it was the same old story with this team,” Eberle said. “But as soon as they tied it, we found a way to get back to playing the way that got us the lead in the first place. That’s what won us the game.”
Taylor Hall, Luke Gazdic and Boyd Gordon also scored for the Oilers (14-26-5), who have won just three of their last 13 games. Edmonton, which has the second-worst record in the NHL, avoided its fourth five-game losing streak of the season.
“There were certainly some shifts in the second period where we didn’t play well, but for the most part our effort was good tonight,” Hall said.
“Our execution was good. There have been a lot of times this season where we have gone into a third period tied or in a close game and we just haven’t really played the way we should. Tonight was a different story. It was nice to see, especially against a team that is as good and as high in the standings as Tampa.”
It was the Oilers’ first win against a team above the playoff cutline in a calendar month.
“We need to spin this into a positive,” Gordon said. “Hopefully we can get things turned around here and start playing some winning hockey.”
Nikita Kucherov, Victor Hedman and Valtteri Flippula replied for the Lightning (25-13-4), who saw a five-game winning streak on the road come to and end.
“I thought we owned that second period and we had a bad break for us on the fourth goal and then a good play by them on the fifth one,” Hedman said. “That’s not the way we wanted to come out of this. We were carrying the momentum going into the third. It’s obviously frustrating that we didn’t play better in the third.”
Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop left the game with an undisclosed injury in the first half, something head coach Jon Cooper did little to explain after the game.
“I have no idea,” said Cooper when asked of Bishop’s status. “I don’t ask, so I can look you in the eye and say I don’t know, so I don’t know.
“We don’t know, it’s hard to speculate. I don’t know what the injury is, but I don’t think it’s going to be major serious. I hope not anyway. But if it is, then (Anders Lindback) is a proven goaltender in the league and he’ll be fine, lets make that determination when we find out what’s wrong with him. I think it’s way too early to speculate on what’s going on.”
Tampa Bay started the scoring with a power-play goal less than three minutes into the game as Matthew Carle made a cross-ice pass to Kucherov at the left face-off dot. Kucherov beat Oilers starter Ilya Bryzgalov with a quick shot glove-side.
Edmonton responded a minute-and-a-half later, however, as a stick got caught in the skates of Martin St. Louis in front of the Tampa net before Eberle could fish it out and lift his 13th of the season past Bishop.
Bishop left the game after the play with what originally looked like an equipment problem. Lindback came in as his replacement, just as Alex Killorn took a double minor for high-sticking.
Edmonton went up 2-1 on their second shot of the game, just past the six minute mark as an Eberle shot pinballed in front and was inadvertently deflected past Lindback by defender Sami Salo on a power play. It was Eberle’s second goal in less than two minutes after only scoring one in his previous 11 games.
The Oilers took a two-goal lead with five minutes left in the first period as Gazdic tipped the puck past Lindback off a point shot from Justin Schultz.
The Lightning started to rally in the second period and were rewarded for it just under nine minutes in as a stolen puck at the Oilers blue-line eventually led to a long screened-shot goal by Hedman.
Tampa Bay tied it 3-3 with 5:35 remaining in the second period as Filppula hooked off the half boards and picked the bottom corner of the net with a quick wrist shot for this 16th goal of the season.
Lindback kept the Oilers from regaining any momentum on a late second period power play, making big stops on Eberle and Gordon to keep it 3-3 after 40 minutes.
Edmonton moved back in front eight minutes into the third period as Gordon did a good job to fight off a defender and swat home the rebound from his own backhand shot in tight.
The Oilers went up 5-3 just past the mid-mark with the teams playing four aside as Hall made a perfect redirection of an Andrew Ference point shot for his 16th goal and team-leading 41st point of the season.
Both teams return to the ice on Tuesday as the Lightning finish a four-game trip in Winnipeg and the Oilers play host to the St. Louis Blues.