NHL

Gagner has unforgettable two games

Hockey Primetime Mike Cook
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In last Thursday’s 8-4 win over Chicago, Edmonton's Sam Gagner officially racked up an eight-point night with four goals and four assists, all in the final two periods. It was the first eight-point game in the NHL since Pittsburgh's Mario Lemieux did it on Dec. 31, 1988, against New Jersey.

Replays later showed Gagner should have had only had seven points because he was credited with an assist when a goal was scored after a failed clearing attempt by the Blackhawks. Rule 33.2 states: “An assist is awarded to the player or players (maximum two) who touches the puck prior to the goal scorer, provided no defender plays or possesses the puck in between.” By rule, the assist by the official scorer stands.

Two nights later, Gagner had a pair of tallies and an assist in the first period of a 5-4 shootout win over Detroit. For good measure, he also scored in the shootout. The stretch earned him an Oilers record for scoring or assisting on 11 consecutive goals. Gretzky twice had a hand in 10 straight Oiler tallies.

“It’s crazy. I just can’t believe it. It’s just nutty. We’ll keep playing him,” coach Tom Renney said chuckling. “We won’t put him in the press box just yet.”

Prior to the two games, Gagner, the obvious choice for the league’s First Star of the Week, had just five goals and 17 assists in 43 games. He had another assist in Monday’s 6-3 loss in Toronto.

“I knew I wouldn’t get another eight-point night but I wanted to make sure I was getting to the net and continue to try and create chances,” Gagner said Saturday. “I got some fortunate bounces in the first but even after that I felt our line (Jordan Eberle and Taylor Hall) was creating and that’s big for us moving forward.

“I just feel way better. I want the puck, and that’s a big thing for me. I want to be that guy.”

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This coming from a guy that could be an ex-Oiler before the month is over. Even though it has won four of six, it sure looks like Edmonton will be watching the playoffs, rather than playing in them for a third season in a row.

Although the Oilers have a number of talented, young hockey players, GM Steve Tambellini could still be active before the Feb. 27 trade deadline. Gagner and Ales Hemsky have been two of the most oft-named Oilers when trade talk is discussed.

“Those trade rumors are tough to deal with. I haven’t really dealt with that in my career, so it weighs on you,” Gagner told the Edmonton Journal. “Hopefully, this will allow me to just go out and play and not worry about it. … There’s a lot left to prove. That has to be the mindset.”

Tambellini must decide if the last week’s stretch is a glimpse of what the 22-year-old Gagner can do, thereby making him a key cog on a young team — as perhaps a second-line center — that features many up-and-comers including Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Hall and Eberle. Or, was the 11-points in two games just an aberration, but one that might force teams to give up more for Gagner?

The sixth overall pick in the 2007 draft, Gagner has 70 goals and 137 assists in 337 career games.

“I’m hoping that it’s kind of a springboard for me to continue to produce,” he told NHL Live. “I felt like this year has been up and down and I played well at times, and there’s been games where I felt like I’ve played really well and just haven’t produced.

“We’ve got a good team and it’s just a matter of continually pressing every night. My focus right now is on continually helping this team win and doing whatever I can to do that. Hopefully, I can continue to produce and help the team win.”

“Usually when guys set these records or get on this roll it’s when they’re having a great season,” Hall of Famer Paul Coffey told 630 CHED. “Sam’s had a bit of a tough one, which you’re all hoping will lead him to bigger and better things."

Northwest Division notes:

Calgary lost 3-2 Monday in a shootout at Anaheim for a 14th consecutive loss in the Honda Center. … Entering Tuesday, Calgary was three points behind eighth-place Minnesota in the Western Conference standings. "More than anything, we just have to climb," captain Jarome Iginla said after Friday’s 3-1 win over Chicago. "We have to get ourselves on a roll here. We know we need to get over 90 points. We know we need to get on a streak here. It's important to get the winning feeling going and climb. We think we can make it." … Miikka Kiprusoff set a new Flames goaltender record Friday by playing in his 527th game, eclipsing Mike Vernon. … Colorado rookie Gabriel Landeskog had nine shots on goal Saturday, setting a new franchise mark for a rookie. … The Avalanche have been held to two goals or fewer 10 times in the past 13 games, going 4-7-2 in that period. … Fun story in the Denver Post about Avs teammates Erik Johnson and Peter Mueller playing together as pee-wees on a state-championship team in Minnesota. … The Avalanche won its first seven shootouts this season and had won 10 in a row going back to last year before Saturday's loss to Vancouver. … Overshadowed by Gagner’s performance was Taylor Hall’s first career four-point game in the Chicago win. … Oilers coach Tom Renney missed Monday’s game in Toronto after getting hit in the head by a deflected puck at the morning skate and requiring stitches. … C Ryan Nugent-Hopkins returned to the Edmonton lineup Saturday after missing 13 games with a left shoulder injury. However, he left Monday’s game favoring the shoulder after a hit. He's expected to miss 7-10 days. … Edmonton G Devan Dubnyk made his career-high sixth consecutive start Monday. … The New York Post reported that Edmonton’s Ryan Smyth could be bound for the Big Apple. That was news to the left wing. “I’ve moved four times in the last five years,” Smyth told the Edmonton Journal. “I think I wanted to come back here for a reason, didn’t I?”… Minnesota, which lost 2-1 in a shootout Saturday, is 0-11-4 in its last 15 trips to Dallas dating back to March 21. 2003. However, the Wild are 10-1-2 in their last 13 games in Colorado, including Thursday’s 1-0 win. … Marek Zidlicky could probably be had for little in return. The Wild defenseman, a minus-8 in his past 14 games, returned Saturday after being a healthy scratch for four consecutive games. Five days earlier, Zidlicky was critical of coach Mike Yeo in a Minneapolis Star Tribune story. … The Wild signed D Nate Prosser to a two-year, one-way contract extension. … Vancouver D Kevin Bieksa scored the game-tying goal in the final minute of regulation in Saturday’s 3-2 win, moments after he dove to block T.J. Galiardi's shot at an empty Vancouver net. “Plays like (Bieksa) made enable you to get points,” LW Mason Raymond said. “We’ll take it.”… In each of the last two games prior to Tuesday, Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault split up the Sedin twins in the third period. … C Ryan Kesler has goals in four consecutive games.

Tagged: Flames, Oilers, Kings, Avalanche, Canucks, Wild, Ryan Smyth, Ryan Kesler, Sam Gagner, Taylor Hall

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