If the Edmonton Oilers were looking to showcase forward Sam Gagner for a possible trade, they got more than they bargained for Thursday night.
Trailing 2-0 against the visiting Chicago Blackhawks, the Oilers came alive at Rexall Place thanks to Gagner’s one-man tour de force. After the first period, Gagner had counted two goals and an assist. When the horn sounded to ended the game, the son of former NHLer Dave Gagner had tied a franchise record with four goals and four assists for an eight-point showing that earned him the game’s first, second and third star selection.
Just how good was Gagner? He scored five points in the third period to earn his place in Oilers’ history next to Wayne Gretzky and Paul Coffey; a remarkable showing for someone whose name has been mentioned repeatedly as trade bait.
“Everyone on the bench was telling me to stay out there for the last five minutes,” Gagner said afterwards. “I didn’t have the legs to stay out that long. I was pretty gassed.”
Head coach Tom Renney added: “Obviously, Sam was having the time of his life. So were his linemates (Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle). It puts a smile on your face during a tough year.”
Gagner’s eight-point game was the first in NHL since 1989 when Mario Lemieux did it for the third time in his career. Prior to Thursday’s game, Gagner had scored just five goals and 17 assists and had been shuffled between the Oilers’ first and fourth lines.