CHICAGO – The first time the Edmonton Oilers came to the Windy City this season, the talented young squad unleashed a four-goal first period and scored seven times in just their third win.
This time they waited until the third period to unleash a scoring flurry that eventually led to a 2-1 victory against the Chicago Blackhawks in front of 21,025 at the United Center. Trailing 1-0 just a little more than 7:00 into the third, Edmonton's Kurtis Foster and Sam Gagner scored back-to-back goals just 14 seconds apart to provide all the offense Oilers goalie Nikolai Khabibulin (26 saves) needed.
"I guess it's the tale of two games with the way we played the last time we were in here," said Gagner, who put the eventual game-winner past Chicago's Corey Crawford on a tip-in at 7:27 of the third. "It seemed like we wouldn't score, but we just tried to push and push, and we were able to get a couple in (14) seconds. You can't say enough about the way Khabby played for us. He made a few huge saves late in the game that preserved the win. Hopefully we can keep it going."
It was the first game of a five-game road trip for the Oilers (4-6-2), who finally cracked the double-digit mark in points (10). Meanwhile, Gagner has to be wondering if the League can add a few more trips to Chicago for Edmonton. All three of his goals this season have come against the Blackhawks in two road wins.
He's also a combined plus-3 in the two games.
"I don't know what it is," he said. "It's one of those things where you play the defending Stanley Cup champions, and it's a great feeling to get a win. It's easy to get up for these games. Everything (about) playing against the defending Stanley Cup champs is a lot of fun."
Fun for everybody but the defending champs. The Hawks fell to 8-8-1 overall and just 4-6-0 at home, a troublesome trend.
"Losing two games to these guys in our own building is not a good thing," Blackhawks defenseman Brian Campbell said. "Losing two games to any team in our own building in a matter of two weeks … it's unacceptable. We've got to get a little mad in this locker room and go out there and win some more battles."
Especially late in close games, which is something the Blackhawks still continue to struggle with at the Madhouse on Madison.
"You go into the third period with the lead, you should feel confident enough with that and feel comfortable in that position and we didn't do that," said Chicago forward Fernando Pisani, a former Oiler whose first-period goal was the lone tally for the Hawks. "We let up for a shift or two, and you're picking it out of your net."
Foster's goal, his second of the season, came on a power play 7:13 into the third. After a shot sailed wide of the Chicago goal, the puck kicked off the end boards and came right to him near the dot in the right circle. He fired it through Crawford's wickets to tie it 1-1.
Before the Blackhawks could exhale, Gagner finished off a pretty play with his tip-in at the net after passes by Dustin Penner and Ales Hemsky (2 assists) set him up perfectly.
At the other end of the rink, the Hawks just couldn't slip another one past the "Bulin Wall" despite outshooting Edmonton 27-26 and having a number of scoring chances in the second and third. Khabibulin's save against Patrick Kane on a rebound late in the third was memorable and kept Chicago from tying it.
"I thought that was lucky," said Khabibulin, who beat his former team for the second time this season. "Most of the time, they score that goal."
It was Chicago's fifth loss at home decided late -- a statistic that's eating at coach Joel Quenneville.
"That's a sore spot this year, the inability of closing teams out and winning at home," he said. "We've got to reestablish home-ice advantage and take advantage of the surroundings and the atmosphere of the building. You look at every game tied in the third period … we've lost all of them."
Like Campbell, he'd like to see a little more fire in the eyes of his players.
"We shouldn't be happy where we're at," Quenneville said. "We should be a little more desperate than we seem -- especially as the game progresses and the games are on the line. We should want to be in that surrounding. We should want to be out there and get the job done."
The loss spoiled the early return of Hawks forward Marian Hossa, who missed five games with an upper-body injury he said is not related to the shoulder he had surgically repaired last season. Hossa finished with a minus-1 rating in the game. During the time Hossa was out, Chicago went 1-3-1 – including home losses to the Oilers and New Jersey Devils.
After an evenly-played first period, Pisani scored the only goal in the first 20 minutes after some good work by Jack Skille below the Edmonton goal. Skille found Pisani inside the right circle with a pass, and Pisani then skated into the slot to notch his second goal of the season at 10:23 of the first for a 1-0 lead.
The second period also saw Hawks enforcer John Scott finally find a taker for a fight in Edmonton's Zack Stortini. The 6-foot-8, 258-pound Scott showed why opponents are reluctant to scrap with him. He got the better of it against the 6-4, 215-pound Stortini, who looked small next to Scott.
The physical play continued early in the third, when Edmonton defenseman Jim Vandermeer picked up a roughing minor for slamming Tomas Kopecky so hard into the corner boards that a glass panel was knocked loose -- landing in the first row of seats.
1 - 0 CHI
1 - 1 Tie
2 - 1 EDM