The Oilers raced to a 3-0 lead and held off the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-2 at Rexall Place Thursday night, but paid a steep price for the win when they lost star rookie Taylor Hall with an ankle injury in his first NHL fight.
While the Blue Jackets lost two points they desperately needed in a push for a Western Conference playoff spot, the Oilers lost Hall when his left leg buckled under him at the end of a fight with Derek Dorsett 13:33 into the second period. Hall, the top pick in last June's Entry Draft, had his 22nd goal and an assist when he crumpled to the ice.
"There's nothing in your contract that says you can't fight, you can't defend yourself," said Hall, who dropped his gloves first and initiated the fight with Dorsett.
"That's all I was trying to do. It started with trying to hit that guy in the open ice. From there, he kind of gave me a few jabs in the face. It's bad luck I had to leave the game because of the fight, but I'd probably do it again if I had to."
The Oilers didn't comment on the severity of Hall's injury and didn't offer a diagnosis. He'll be re-examined. Hall was wearing a plastic walking cast after the game.
"I saw his gloves come off and I was a little bit stunned when he punched me," Dorsett said. "I was like, 'OK, it's game on,' but I know who I'm fighting and I know the guys who I should be fighting. He's usually not one of them, but I'm not going to let him just throw his gloves off and start punching me."
"There comes a time when you have to (fight)," Hall said. "There's nothing wrong with stepping up for yourself and just trying to defend yourself.
"Eventually, if you keep getting hit and people keep coming in for you, it's not a great feeling when you're that guy who keeps getting rescued, so I was just trying to help out a little bit."
Goals by Sam Gagner, Hall, Jordan Eberle and Andrew Cogliano and a 26-save performance by Devan Dubnyk made it two straight wins at home for the Oilers before heading out for a five-game road trip -- but that was little consolation with the injury to Hall.
"You never want to see a guy like Hallsy engaged in a confrontation like that," captain Shawn Horcoff said. "I think he thought that he had enough and engaged Dorsett.
"The kid's got a lot of fight in him. He's a battler. That goes a long way to show his competitiveness and his battle level. He's only going to take so much out there before he's going to react."
Columbus fell to 0-2-1 on its current road trip. With 69 points, the Jackets are 12th in the West, five points out of eighth place.
The way the first period unfolded, it became obvious the Blue Jackets were in for a long night. Columbus got the first seven shots of the game, but the Oilers scored the only two goals of the first period as Gagner and Hall put pucks behind Steve Mason.
In between, Dubnyk stifled R.J. Umberger on a penalty shot at 10:15 after he was hooked by Richard Petiot on a breakaway, and the Blue Jackets had a goal waved off at 11:06 when Dorsett was called for bumping into Dubnyk.
"It's that time of year and we need all the points we can get, so it's a frustrating way to lose," Dorsett said. "We came hard and we're down 2-0. It just seemed we were a bit sloppy after that."
Gagner opened the scoring on a power play at 12:06 when he took a cross-ice pass from Magnus Paajarvi and snapped a shot high past a diving Mason. Hall, who'd gone three games without a point, picked up his second goal and sixth point of the season series when his snapshot from deep on the left wing trickled between Mason and the post at 16:52.
When Eberle took a pass from Shawn Horcoff, darted to the net and tucked a backhand shot over Mason to make it 3-0 just 14 seconds into the second period, the Oilers had three goals on 14 shots, Mason was pulled in favor of Mathieu Garon and the Blue Jackets had dug themselves a hole they couldn't climb out of.
"They made a good push," Dubnyk said. "They're a good team with a lot of good players. They came hard right off the get-go. They got the penalty shot there, and that was pretty important.
"We kind of took over as the first period went on. We've done a pretty good job of that. If we can weather the storm, we've been pretty good at coming back."
Not that Columbus rolled over. Red-hot rookie Matt Calvert scored his seventh goal in his last six games to cut Edmonton's lead to 3-1 when swept at loose puck behind Dubnyk 1:34 into the second. Scottie Upshall made it two goals in two games with Columbus since being acquired at the deadline to cut to Edmonton's lead to 3-2 with 4:22 to go -- but Cogliano ended any drama with an empty-netter at 19:48.
1 - 0 EDM
2 - 0 EDM
3 - 0 EDM
3 - 1 EDM
3 - 2 EDM
4 - 2 EDM
Interference - Goalkeeper