It would be difficult to find a team much harder to figure out than the Edmonton Oilers.
Taylor Hall scored a hat trick and added an assist as the Oilers bounced back from a stinker of a loss with a surprising 8-2 victory over the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday.
“It’s always a fun night when you get a hat trick, but for us to win in the fashion that we did gives us some confidence,” said Hall, who recorded his fourth career hat trick. “This homestand could prove to be big for us.
“I haven’t been in this league long, but I’ve been in it enough to know that anything can happen on any night against any team. You have to be ready for the opportunity. You just have to come out and play your game. Sometimes you’re going to get eight and some nights you’re going to get zero. And tonight was a great night.”
Ales Hemsky, David Perron, Mark Arcobello, Jordan Eberle and Sam Gagner also scored for the Oilers (10-18-2) who replaced a quarter of their lineup for the game after a 6-2 loss to the Phoenix Coyotes on Tuesday.
The Oilers improved to just 4-9-0 at home, but have won six of their last nine overall.
“I don’t know if you see a score like that coming, but I think every morning you come into a game you’re optimistic,” said Oilers head coach Dallas Eakins. “Over the last few weeks our group has taken a step in mental toughness and something in that degree. I didn’t see a win of that score coming though, I definitely thought we’d be in a tight game.”
Nick Holden and P.A. Parenteau responded for the Avalanche (19-7-0) who had won two in a row and five of their last six coming into the game.
Colorado goalie Semyon Varlamov allowed eight goals on 28 shots, however three of those came in the final five minutes with the game clearly out of reach.
“What happened in the last five minutes, we have to look at each other and play for our goaltender there,” said Avalanche assistant captain Paul Stastny. “Those last two goals are on us. We can’t quit on our goaltender like that. He has been our best player all year. Hanging him out to dry like that is unacceptable.”
Head coach Patrick Roy wasn’t as upset after the game as could have been expected from such a lopsided score.
“I’m not disappointed at all,” he said. “(The Oilers) played well and scored power-play goals, they scored on the rush. We knew before the game that it’s a team that it would be very dangerous to exchange chances with. If they go on the rush, it’s their game and we played into it. We need to learn from it.
“They scored three goals in the last four minutes or so. It was a closer game than the score showed I think.”
The Oilers started the scoring before the game was four minutes old as Philip Larsen sent a long breakaway pass up ice that Hall was able to catch up to before sliding the puck through Varlamov’s pads.
Colorado had a chance to pull even four minutes later on a five-on-three power play, but Oilers goalie Devan Dubnyk stoned Matt Duchene on a glorious opportunity at the side of the net to preserve the lead.
Avalanche defenceman Jan Hejda had to be helped off the ice with eight minutes to play in the first period after losing an edge and going heavily feet first into the boards.
Edmonton made it 3-0 with power-play goals just 15 seconds apart with just over two minutes remaining in the opening frame.
Hall got his second of the night and ninth of the season with 2:18 remaining on a five-on-three advantage, unleashing a bullet of a one-timer from the right face-off dot.
The Oilers then took advantage of the remaining time on the power play as Ryan Smyth sent a pass to hit Hemsky in full flight and he undressed Varlamov with a deke before scoring on the backhand.
Colorado got a goal back four minutes into the second period as a Holden point shot caromed off a couple of Oilers players before ending up in the Edmonton net.
The Avalanche made it 3-2 midway through the second period. Parenteau was able to swoop in and pick up the rebound of a big Dubnyk glove save on a point-blank shot by Gabriel Landeskog and hook it into a wide-open net.
The Oilers went back up by two goals with eight minutes left in the middle period as Perron went in on a 2-on-1 before electing to shoot it himself. It was Perron’s third goal in the last two games and team-leading 12th of the season.
Edmonton restored it’s three-goal lead with 11 minutes left in the third period as a pass ticked off of defenceman Nate Guenin before Arcobello kicked it up to his stick and beat Varlamov.
The Oilers made it 6-2 with just under five minutes left as Smyth showed good patience on a 2-on-1 before hitting Eberle for his 10th of the year. It was Smyth’s third assist of the game.
Edmonton added insult to injury with a pair of late goals.
With a minute-and-a-half left, Gagner intercepted a pass and then took a nice return feed from Hall before sniping the puck past Varlamov’s glove.
Hall then got the hat trick with just 11 seconds left as he tipped a Ryan Nugent-Hopkins shot on net and then followed it up to put home his own rebound.
“There is tremendous amount of skill here and we have to utilize it on a daily basis,” Smyth said. “We can’t just sporadically use it. If we get consistent at it, we’re going to be successful.”
The Avs play the second of a three-game Western Canada trip on Friday in Calgary. Edmonton next plays host to the Flames on Saturday.
Notes: It was the first of three scheduled meetings between the two teams this season. Edmonton came into the game with a fair amount of recent success against the Avalanche, having won seven of their previous 10 games at home against Colorado. ... Deeply disappointed in Tuesday’s 6-2 loss to the Phoenix Coyotes at home, the Oilers switched out a quarter of their lineup from that game. Forward Will Acton and defencemen Denis Grebeshkov and Anton Belov were sent down to Oklahoma City while defenceman Jeff Petry and forward Jesse Joensuu were healthy scratches. Call-ups Anton Lander (forward) and Martin Marincin were inserted into the lineup, the first NHL game for Marincin. Also coming in were defencemen Philip Larsen and Corey Potter and forward Luke Gazdic. ... Edmonton goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov was put on injured reserve with concussion/whiplash symptoms after being run over in the crease last Sunday in Dallas. ... Avalanche defenceman Ryan Wilson (back) and forward Alex Tanguay (knee) remained on injured reserve, while veteran defenceman Cory Sarich was a healthy scratch for Colorado, which came into the game after a four-day break. ... The Avs came into the game having recorded a penalty-free game against Minnesota on Saturday, but allowed three power play goals on Thursday.