Oilers 4, Canadiens 1

The last-place Edmonton Oilers are beginning to embrace their

role as spoilers.

Ales Hemsky scored twice and Edmonton snapped a third-period tie

with took over the Montreal Canadiens 4-1 on Thursday night.

Jordan Eberle and Ryan Jones had third-period goals 15 seconds

apart for the Oilers, who have won two straight at home following

seven consecutive losses in Edmonton.

”At the end of the day, that’s what we have right now, playing

the spoiler,” coach Tom Renney said. ”We have to continue to gain

respect.

”Especially after the three games that preceded these two that

have been well-chronicled as not being very good at home. We are a

proud organization. We want to represent Edmonton and our fans the

way they would like us to and that means flat-out hard work and

showing up every night.”

Jeff Halpern scored for the Canadiens, who have lost five of

six. The Canadiens also have dropped four straight and eight of

nine in Edmonton, where they haven’t won since Nov. 22, 2003.

Already short of experienced talent on the blue line, Montreal

lost defenseman James Wisniewski 7 minutes into the first when he

was hit in the face with Taylor Hall’s shot.

Wisniewski was taken to a hospital for observation and did not

return.

”Losing James early in the game when we already had a depleted

defense made it difficult,” Montreal coach Jacques Martin said.

”I thought we competed hard, though.

”If it hadn’t have been for a couple of breakdowns in the

third, I thought we had a good game. We created chances but their

goaltending was strong.”

Hall said it was a unique experience to see the crowd split

pretty evenly.

”It was quite the environment with the fans of both teams

cheering like they were in the building,” he said. ”When we

scored our third goal of the game … well, I haven’t heard the

fans cheer for us like that since our first game of the

season.”

Edmonton opened the scoring 8 minutes in when Hemsky fired his

11th goal of the season past goaltender Carey Price.

Price kept it from becoming a two-goal game when he robbed

Eberle with a quick glove save in tight.

The Oilers had another great opportunity in the waning seconds

as the puck was bouncing in front of the Montreal goal before the

horn sounded.

Edmonton had 11 first-period shots while Montreal fired eight on

Oilers goalie Nikolai Khabibulin, making his second straight start

after snapping a 14-game losing streak Tuesday.

Montreal tied it 1-all at 4:06 of the second as the puck bounced

around in the crease after a hard point shot before Halpern tucked

it under Khabibulin in a mad scramble.

Khabibulin made some big stops to keep the game even after 40

minutes, particularly when he came across to deny Alexandre Picard

in close on the game’s only power play through the first two

periods.

Edmonton took a 3-1 lead with Eberle and Jones scoring 15

seconds apart in the third.

Eberle scored 3:58 in, taking Hall’s pass before seemingly

catching Price by surprise with a high shot from in tight.

The Oilers made it a two-goal game off the ensuing faceoff as

Jones took the puck up ice and put it in off Price’s pads.

Hemsky added an empty-net goal with less than a minute left.

Khabibulin finished with 36 saves for his 10th win of the

season.

The Oilers close out a six-game homestand Saturday against

Atlanta. Montreal next plays in the Heritage Classic outdoor game

in Calgary on Sunday.

Notes: Martin tied Bryan Murray for seventh on the career list

for games behind the bench at 1,239. Martin is also 13 wins from

600. … It was the second of two meetings between the teams.

Edmonton won the previous one 4-3 in overtime at Montreal on Dec.

1. … Montreal defenseman Hal Gill missed his fourth straight game

with an upper-body injury while Jaroslav Spacek also sat out with a

lower-body ailment. … Seeking some defensive help, the Canadiens

traded a 2012 fifth-round pick to Anaheim for defenseman Paul Mara,

who played in 42 games with Montreal in 2009-10. … Edmonton

forward Gilbert Brule is reportedly close to returning to the team.

Brule has missed more than a month with a bad ankle and a prolonged

battle with the flu.