The Edmonton Oilers have finally broken out of their serious slump.
Jesse Puljujarvi had two goals and an assist as the Oilers defeated the Columbus Blue Jackets 5-2 on Thursday to snap a six-game skid, the last five of which came at home.
“This was big for us, we needed this win,” Puljujarvi said. “We need to keep building on this to get wins on other nights. I hope this gives me more confidence to play better every evening.”
Derek Ryan, Brendan Perlini and Warren Foegele also scored for the Oilers (17-11-0). Backup goalie Stuart Skinner was rock solid in net, making 36 saves.
“He’s a young goalie on the rise. He’s got all the tools,” said Oilers assistant coach Glen Gulutzan. “He’s in impeccable shape now, well-liked in the room. A big guy, moves well.
“He’s in the right spot for his development, on the right trajectory and he’s been walking the right line.”
Gustav Nyquist and Justin Danforth replied for the Blue Jackets (14-13-1), who have lost eight of their last 10.
“I don’t think it was an effort thing tonight,” said Columbus head coach Brad Larsen. “You have a start like that where we started fine, and then you’re down three to a very dangerous team.
“We had our looks, their goalie played well, we he hit a lot of posts tonight. We weren’t perfect by any means, but the effort was better.”
Nyquist felt his team was just slightly out of sync, an ongoing issue for the club.
“We played a lot of good minutes, but things aren’t really going well lately,” he said. “We’re still in it, we just have to find our game and string together some wins.”
Edmonton’s dreadful run of allowing the first goal of the game – which had happened in 15 of their past 18 games – finally came to an end with a pair of goals 46 seconds apart on a five-on-three man advantage nearly eight minutes into the first period.
The first goal came after Tyson Barrie’s point shot came off the boards to Puljujarvi, who sent a backhand past Columbus goalie Elvis Merzlikins.
Puljujarvi then added his second goal of the game, tapping in a nice feed from Ryan Nugent-Hopkins into a wide open net for his 10th of the season.
Edmonton is now 10-0 this season when scoring first in a game.
“When you do that, it comes down to confidence. You start feeling good about yourselves,” Gulutzan said. “It’s important to score first, look around the league and see that.”
Perlini stripped a puck and sent it on net at the 11-minute mark of the first, with Ryan tucking the rebound home through Merzlikins’ legs for his first point in 23 games.
Perlini blasted home a rebound from the slot at 16:41 of the second period for his first of the season after recently being recalled from the American Hockey League.
Joonas Korpisalo started the third period in the Columbus net.
The Blue Jackets spoiled Skinner’s shutout bid on their 30th shot, 6:28 into the third period, as Nyquist chipped in a rebound.
Columbus put a scare into the hometown fans when Danforth showed good hands to gather up a rebound and score on the backhand with just over three minutes left to make it 4-2.
However, Edmonton secured the victory on a Foegele empty-net goal.
The Oilers are back at it on Saturday when they make a one-game trip to Seattle. The Blue Jackets were also supposed to play on Saturday in Calgary, but that game has been postponed with COVID-19 running rampant through the Flames. They next play in Buffalo on Monday.
Out with injuries for the Oilers were Mike Smith (lower body), Slater Koekkoek (lower body), Kris Russell (upper body) and Zach Hyman (undisclosed); while Devin Shore joined Ryan McLeod and head coach Dave Tippett on COVID-19 protocol ... Missing from the Columbus lineup were Dean Kukan (upper body), Patrik Laine (upper body) and Adam Boqvist (upper body).