It’s been a long time since the Edmonton Oilers played meaningful hockey games in April and Taylor Hall is loving it. It shows on the ice, too.
Hall had a goal and four assists Wednesday night as the Oilers made it five straight wins with a 8-2 rout of the reeling Calgary Flames.
“It’s awesome,” said Hall, who has 15 points in his last six games. “You don’t really expect to win five games in a row but we have and it’s put us in a great spot for the year.”
It wasn’t that long ago when the Flames dominated the provincial rivalry having won 16-of-17 games.
But Edmonton has been the better team lately, winning four of the last five including both ends of the recent home-and-home series to move them past the St. Louis Blues for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
With 12 games to go, Edmonton sits eighth in the West, one point up on the Blues and the Nashville Predators. The Columbus Blue Jackets are two points back.
“It’s a really good feeling on the bench, we feel like every shift is important and every goal that we get is huge for our squad. To be playing games like this, I think everybody’s really relishing it,” said Hall.
The Oilers are looking to make their first post-season appearance since going all the way to the Stanley Cup final in 2006, before losing in seven games to the Carolina Hurricanes.
Jordan Eberle and Nail Yakupov with two goals each, Sam Gagner, Ryan Whitney and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins also scored for Edmonton (16-13-7).
The Oilers, enjoying their longest winning streak since taking six in a row Oct. 22-Nov. 3, 2011, kicked off a four-game road trip that continues Thursday night in Vancouver.
“We have a lot of games in a lot of days and we have some really tough opponents coming up. We’re going to have to be on our game and have better starts,” said Hall.
Matt Stajan had both goals for Calgary (13-18-4). The Flames have lost seven of their last nine to remain second from the bottom in the West and 28th overall. Winless in its last 11 road games, Calgary begins a three-game road trip Friday in San Jose.
“That’s not fun. As players in that room, that’s embarrassing,” Stajan said. “We wear that jersey every night in the NHL, we have to put in a better effort than that.”
Tied 2-2 after one period, Edmonton seized control of the game in the second scoring three power-play goals in a span of just over six minutes.
Yakupov gave the Oilers the lead at 3:34, finding open space in the slot and one-timing Gagner’s pass behind Joey MacDonald. It was his eighth goal of the season and second in as many games after going 16 games without a goal.
Hall scored his 13th at 7:39 and Nugent-Hopkins capped off the barrage at 9:51.
“We knew how important ever chance on the power play is, we wanted to get pucks to the net and make sure we had bodies there,” said Hall. “Pucks ended up on guy’s sticks and we put them in so it’s nice to see. To be down 2-0 and win 8-2 is pretty cool.”
The Oilers’ high flying trio of Eberle, Hall and Nugent-Hopkins have combined for 32 points during Edmonton’s winning streak.
“Not every night it goes like that. It was a lot of fun,” said Nugent-Hopkins, who also had three assists. “Obviously it’s been a few years rebuilding and we want to take that next step. We’re ready to do that and all of us are excited about this opportunity we have.”
Winners of eight of its last nine games at home, Calgary got off to a fast start grabbing a 2-0 lead less than six minutes into the game on Stajan’s first goals in 19 games.
However, boosted by a strong turnout of boisterous Oiler jersey-wearing supporters, Edmonton quickly tied it.
“As players, you’re frustrated and all that stuff, but there’s no reason for that. Even though you’re down, you have to play the same way and we didn’t,” said Flames defenceman Mark Giordano. “We played a soft game, we tried to make plays across the middle. It just comes down to, again, in our own zone, we were far from good enough.”
MacDonald finished with 31 saves for the Flames, who gave Miikka Kiprusoff the night off after several days of having his name mentioned in trade rumours. Earlier in the day, he said he opted to stay in Calgary rather than accept a trade.
After getting beaten on two of the first three shots he faced, Devan Dubynk settled in for the Oilers, finishing the night with 19 saves.
Notes: Newest Oilers forward Jerred Smithson, acquired earlier in the day from Florida, did not play. He will wear jersey No. 25. Also not in the line-up was D Mark Fistric ... The first period fight between Mike Brown and Steve Begin was the first fight in the rivalry in 12 games, dating back to Oct 26, 2010 ... Calgary inserted C Roman Horak into the line-up after being recalled earlier in the day from Abbotsford. With D Derek Smith (lower body) out indefinitely, Anton Babchuk played for the first time since Feb. 17. He had been a healthy scratch 21 games in a row.