The Edmonton Oilers dug themselves a big early season hole. Now they are showing signs of getting out of it.
Jordan Eberle scored a pair of goals, and the Oilers stretched their winning streak to a season-high three games with a 4-1 victory over the Florida Panthers on Thursday night.
Sam Gagner and David Perron also scored, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins had three assists for the Oilers (7-15-2) who improved to 3-7 at home. Devan Dubnyk made 24 saves in the victory.
”We’ve got some confidence back and some swagger,” Nugent-Hopkins said. ”It is definitely nice. You obviously can’t get too high, but when you are losing a lot of games in a row some guys can get down.
”You need to stay positive, and it is easy to do that when you are winning.”
Edmonton was 2-9-1 in its 12 games before the winning streak started.
”Winning games does so much for the confidence of the team, especially when you are playing well and winning,” forward Taylor Hall said. ”That’s a double bonus. We are getting great goaltending, and it seems like our special teams is the engine that is driving us right now.
”We are getting a lot of confidence off of that.”
Oilers coach Dallas Eakins credited Dubnyk for the club’s recent success.
”He seems really focused early in the games,” he said. ”When our team was struggling, we weren’t focused early and he was part of that. I find him very focused to start games now.
”Then he gets into the rhythm and gets a little swagger back there. He has been excellent for us of late, and when your goalie is excellent the wins start piling up.”
Scottie Upshall had the lone goal for the Panthers (6-13-4), whose two-game winning streak was snapped. Tim Thomas stopped 31 shots.
”Our starts have been hurting us,” Panthers defenseman Tom Gilbert said. ”We’ve had a handful of games where we’re behind the eight-ball right away, and in this league, it’s hard to catch up. They came out strong, and we just weren’t ready to match that.
”We had our opportunities, it was just a matter of trying to get the second goal, trying to get some momentum, trying to get some energy going for us, and we just never got that.”
Panthers coach Peter Horachek said his team didn’t seem to be going the same speed as the Oilers.
”The key was the energy, we didn’t have any,” he said. ”That’s the key to the game, if your energy is better and you go out with a workman attitude, everything improves, the whole game improves from our standpoint.
”I thought at the beginning of the game, you could see the work ethic wasn’t there, the legs weren’t there, the compete level wasn’t there. That made it a struggle.”
The Oilers picked up where they left off Tuesday in a 7-0 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets and scored a power-play goal just 57 seconds in against Florida.
Nugent-Hopkins’ point shot deflected into the air, and Eberle batted it past Thomas for his seventh goal. It was Edmonton’s 12th straight unanswered goal, dating to a four-goal outburst in the third period of a 4-2 win over Calgary on Saturday.
The Oilers made it 2-0 six minutes into the second period when Nail Yakupov waited out traffic on a 3-on-2 break. He sent a nice pass to the trailing Gagner, who beat Thomas high to the glove side for his first goal of the season.
Edmonton took a three-goal lead just past the mid-mark of the second period with another power-play goal. Perron tipped in his eighth of the season off a one-timer from the top of the circle by defenseman Justin Schultz.
Florida cut its deficit to 3-1 with 3:26 left in the second period. The Panthers caught Edmonton scrambling with defenseman Corey Potter without a stick. Upshall then put a bad-angle shot between Dubnyk and the post.
The Panthers had three power plays in the third period, but were unable to get anything past Dubnyk.
Eberle scored his second of the game into an empty net to put the game away.
The Panthers will wrap up a five-game road trip in Calgary on Friday night.
NOTES: Edmonton topped Florida in the first game of the two-game season series 4-3 in overtime on Nov. 5. Rookie forward Mark Arcobello scored his first two NHL in that one, including the winner. He was a healthy scratch Thursday. The Panthers fired coach Kevin Dineen after that loss and replaced him with Horachek. … The Oilers put forward Steven MacIntyre on waivers for the purpose of sending him to Oklahoma City (AHL). … Panthers D Mike Weaver missed the game with an illness. Forward Scott Gomez sat out for the eighth time because of a groin injury.