Taylor Hall and the rest of his young teammates in Edmonton are starting to get coach Tom Renney's message.
Ten days earlier, Renney laid into his young club after a dreadful effort in a 5-0 loss at Phoenix. They've rebounded with four wins in their next five games and completed a three-game sweep on their tour of Eastern Canada with a 5-0 victory at Toronto on Thursday.
Hall had the first two-goal game of his career, giving the No. 1 pick in the 2010 Entry Draft eight goals for the season. Nikolai Khabibulin stopped 33 shots for the shutout in his return from a groin injury.
Hall's night included a highlight-reel backhander after skating around defenseman Francois Beauchemin. He feels like he's coming into his own.
"At the beginning of the season, I said it was a process and I just wanted to get a comfort level down," he said. "Definitely there are games now where I feel very comfortable out there and my confidence is good. Any player can tell you, when you do have confidence it's a special thing.
"I'm feeling pretty good about my game right now."
Another youngster, Jordan Eberle, had a goal and a pair of assists. Sam Gagner and Ryan Jones also scored as the Oilers improved to 9-12-4. They head home to host St. Louis on Saturday in the opener of a six-game homestand.
"We're definitely going in the right direction," said Khabibulin, who looked sharp after missing seven games but got plenty of help. "We're more aware of things. I was really impressed how we picked up the late guys tonight. We intercepted a lot of passes through the seams.
"It seems like we were doing better in the last few games managing the turnovers. It's just a better effort."
The Leafs' effort inspired large-scale booing at the final horn from the sellout crowd at the Air Canada Centre. Toronto (8-12-4) hit a new low after losing for the 16th time in 20 games and dropping to 28th in the overall standings. The game saw Jonas Gustavsson pulled after allowing two goals on six shots in favor of Jean-Sebastien Giguere.
"I just felt like we almost quit on the goalies there a little bit and it's not acceptable," forward Clarke MacArthur said. "You go into the game all ready to go, the systems are all laid out and then we don't want to follow them. It's one of those things where if don't we all buy in, you know you're going to have nights like this and we didn't buy in tonight."
Rangers 6, Islanders 5 | HIGHLIGHTS
The Islanders made it 15 losses in 16 games, but this was nothing like any of the previous 14. The Isles managed five goals but came up short when Marian Gaborik completed his hat trick by scoring with 5:25 remaining to snap a 5-5 tie.
The Rangers survived a pair of blown two-goal leads to win for the fifth time in seven games.
"I guess that's just what happens in this building," said Rangers coach John Tortorella, whose team lost 6-4 at the Nassau Coliseum in their last visit on Oct. 11. "Earlier this year, we were on the losing end, so trying to take a positive out of it, we won a game."
Tortorella's coaching had a big hand in the outcome. Gaborik looked unstoppable in his first night on a line with Sean Avery and Eric Christensen. He also made a key move by lifting a shaky Martin Biron after Rob Schremp's goal at 12:30 of the middle period capped a comeback from a 2-0 deficit and put the Isles ahead 3-2.
With Henrik Lundqvist in goal, Brandon Prust tied the game just 51 seconds later when his deflection caromed off Isles defenseman Andrew MacDonald and into the net. Gaborik put the Rangers ahead at 16:24 when his pass toward the slot went off Zenon Konopka's stick and past an unlucky Rick DiPietro.
Gaborik made it 5-3 at 3:31 of the third, and the Rangers appeared to be cruising to a victory before the Isles' Michael Grabner deflected Radek Martinek's slot past Lundqvist at 12:29 and Blake Comeau tied it by nudging home a loose puck at 14:10.
"It's brutal," DiPietro said. "Every time we sized the momentum, there was a breakdown and they capitalized on it."
Just 25 seconds later after Comeau's goal tied it, Gaborik outmaneuvered defenseman James Wisniewski in front of the net and banged home the winner, completing his second hat trick of the season and 12th of his career.
"They were able to bury a few, but we've got Gabby so ..." said Christensen, who scored the game's first goal at 8:11 of the opening period.
The teams meet again Friday night at Madison Square Garden.
"Hopefully we can build on this," Gaborik said. "We just have to make sure we don't give them as much as we did in the second and third periods."
Kings 3, Panthers 2 | HIGHLIGHTS
The Panthers were just the tonic for what ailed the Kings, who snapped their four-game losing streak by rallying for two third-period goals to beat Florida at the Staples Center for the sixth time in a row.
Florida led 2-1 after two periods, but Peter Harrold got the tying goal early in the third period and Anze Kopitar backhanded the rebound of Dustin Brown's shot past Tomas Vokoun to snap the losing streak and give the Kings only their second win in nine games.
"It feels good," Kopitar said. "It's been a while, first of all since we've played like that, a full 60 minutes. I think it's definitely a chip off the shoulder. Hopefully we can continue playing like that now."
The victory came one day after the Kings held a players-only meeting after practice.
"We weren't losing another one," defenseman Drew Doughty said. "We were sick of coming to the rink every day and losing."
Jarret Stoll put L.A. in front with his eighth goal of the season 10:24 into the game when he finished off a pass by Justin Williams., Michal Repik tied it at 13:51 with his first goal of the season.
The Panthers went ahead with 4:09 left in the second period when Steven Reinprecht's pass from the side boards found Booth, whose wrist shot handcuffed Quick.
Florida, which is winless at the Staples Center since Nov. 27, 2002, lost 5-3 at Anaheim on Wednesday and will try to avoid a winless week out West when it visits Phoenix on Saturday.
"We played great," center Stephen Weiss said. "We battled hard. Unfortunately, we were just two minutes short of at least getting it into overtime and getting a point, possibly two, so it stinks.
Meanwhile, the Kings have just four games, all at home, during a 12-day span ending Dec. 11.
"It's a good feeling to finally get a win," defenseman Matt Greene said. "Those are the games that are going to break you through a slump. You're trying, and you have some adversity, and you've got to work through your goals. I think tonight we did that. It's just a great feeling, finally breaking through in that third (period) there."
Canadiens 5, Devils 1 | HIGHLIGHTS
Montreal scored twice in the first 98 seconds and rolled to an easy victory before a disappointed crowd at the Prudential Center.
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