Hemsky scored the only goal of the shootout as the Oilers won their fourth consecutive game, slipping past the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-3 on Sunday night to go over .500 for the first time since the fourth game of the season.
"It's a good feeling," Hemsky said. "Every time that we would come close, we couldn't take the next step."
It was the seventh win in a row at home for the Oilers (31-30-5), who extended their NHL record for most shootout wins in a season to 14. Hemsky, the last of Edmonton's shooters in the shootout, beat goalie Pascal Leclaire with a forehand. Oilers goalie Mathieu Garon made it stand with a left pad save on Gilbert Brule to end the game.
"It's been a yearlong struggle," Oilers coach Craig MacTavish on trying to achieve a winning record. "You have to get to .500 before you can improve on it. We all know we have to get 10 or 11 or 12 games over .500 to have a fighting chance. At least now we know we are going in the right direction."
Edmonton is seven points behind eighth-place Colorado in the Western Conference playoff race.
"It's big for the team," Edmonton rookie Andrew Cogliano said. "It's good for our confidence and it feels like we are finally making progress. Hopefully we can get one more win and sweep this (five-game) homestand and then keep it going on the road."
Hemsky, Andrew Cogliano and Steve Staios scored in regulation for Edmonton. Rick Nash, Jason Chimera and Dick Tarnstrom scored for Columbus, which has lost two of its last three and is four points back of eighth.
"The disappointing part for us was that we had the lead in the third period and we needed to do a better job," Columbus coach Ken Hitchcock said. "We took a penalty in our own zone that was really unnecessary and those are the errors that you make that end up costing you two points."
Blue Jackets goalie Pascal Leclaire preferred to see it as gaining a point after tying the game back up late.
"We were pretty solid for two periods and didn't give them anything and then they came in and tied it up with a good shot on the power play goal and the third goal was a pretty big fluke," he said. "But to get back in it was a big point. A shootout could go either way so maybe we lost a point but maybe we ran away with one too."
Nash scored with just over three minutes remaining in the first period to put the Blue Jackets on the board, beating Garon with a wrist shot from the top of the circle.
It only took the Oilers 41 seconds to answer as Cogliano tipped a shot from fellow rookie Sam Gagner through the legs of Leclaire.
It stayed 1-1 through a scoreless second, with Garon facing the majority of the shots as Columbus outshot Edmonton 24-12 through the second period.
|Edmonton Oilers goaltender Mathieu Garon thwarts Columbus Blue Jackets center Gilbert Brule on Columbus' final shootout attempt to clinch a 4-3 shootout win on Sunday, March 2, 2008, in Edmonton. (Photo by Andy Devlin/Getty Images)|
The Blue Jackets regained the lead midway through the third as Nikolai Zherdev made a deft backhand pass from behind the net to Chimera, who tucked the puck between Garon's legs.
The Oilers scored goals just 20 seconds apart a couple minutes later to take the 3-2 lead.
They tied the game on the power play when Hemsky walked in from the point and beat Leclaire on a high shot. They jumped out in front on a bit of a fluke when Staios' point shot was deflected and went high in the air and over Leclaire, who made an attempt to jump up and catch it before it landed in the net behind him.
Tarnstrom scored the game-tying goal against his former team with a shot through the crowd.
"We might have gotten away with the game a little bit," Garon said. "But it's not how we win, it's how many we win. Maybe we weren't that satisfied with our first two periods, but we came back hard in the third and got the two points."
Notes: Linesman Ryan Galloway took a puck in the face in the first minute of the contest and left the game, bleeding from just below the eye. He was able to return for the second period after getting 10 stitches ... It was the first meeting between the teams since Columbus sent forward Curtis Glencross to Edmonton for Tarnstrom. Glencross has two goals and three assists in his first nine games with Edmonton.
|Rick Nash (35) ASST: Manny Malhotra (14), Nikolay Zherdev (30)|
1 - 0 CBJ
|Andrew Cogliano (12) ASST: Sam Gagner (28), Denis Grebeshkov (11)|
1 - 1 Tie
|Jason Chimera (13) ASST: Nikolay Zherdev (31), Andrew Murray (2)|
2 - 1 CBJ
|PPG - Ales Hemsky (18) ASST: Jarret Stoll (19), Dustin Penner (21)|
2 - 2 Tie
|Steve Staios (7) ASST: Andrew Cogliano (22), Robert Nilsson (21)|
3 - 2 EDM
|Dick Tarnstrom (3) ASST: NONE|
3 - 3 Tie
|1||R. Nash||R. Nilsson|
|2||N. Zherdev||A. Hemsky|
|Power Play %||21.7%||17.7%|
|% on Road||21.5%||18.9%|
|% at Home||22.0%||16.5%|
|Dustin Penner Hooking against Nikolay Zherdev|
|Rick Nash Hooking against Fernando Pisani|
|Jarret Stoll Holding against Derek MacKenzie|
|Jan Hejda Interference against Jarret Stoll|
|Robert Nilsson Interference against Rick Nash|
|Rick Nash Hooking against Robert Nilsson|
|Jan Hejda Tripping against Ales Hemsky|
|Jarret Stoll Hooking against Jason Chimera|
|Matt Greene Delaying Game-Puck over glass|
|David Vyborny Hooking against Andrew Cogliano|
|Jan Hejda Hooking against Tom Gilbert|
|Kris Russell Hi-sticking against Fernando Pisani|