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Blue Jackets edge Oilers in shootout

by Derek Van Diest

EDMONTON -- Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Curtis McElhinney had the game of his life at Rexall Place on Wednesday.

McElhinney made a career-high 44 saves through overtime, then stopped two more shots in the shootout to help the Blue Jackets to a 4-3 victory against the Edmonton Oilers.

Ryan Johansen and Alexander Wennberg scored in the shootout for the Blue Jackets (31-35-4), who ended a six-game losing streak in Edmonton.

Wennberg's backhander in the third round of the shootout beat Oilers goaltender Ben Scrivens, and McElhinney ended the game by stopping Derek Roy's shot. It was Wennberg's second game-deciding goal against the Oilers in five days; he also scored to give the Blue Jackets a 5-4 shootout win in Columbus last Friday.

"Tonight our goaltender was great, he was the difference in the game," Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards said. "They were faster than us and I think some of that had to do with the long day of travel we had [Tuesday] to get here. It was also a long day sitting at the hotel waiting for the 8 p.m. game. That's no excuse though; we have to find ways to be better. But they were faster and it looked like we were missing some energy and we didn't have what we needed to keep up with them."

David Savard, Johansen and Mark Letestu scored in regulation for Columbus, which had to rally to force overtime after the Oilers overcame an early 2-0 deficit on goals by Roy, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Nail Yakupov

Jordan Eberle scored in the second round of the shootout for Edmonton (19-39-13). Scrivens made 17 saves for the Oilers through overtime and one in the shootout.

"We played well, we had our opportunities to finish them off and put the puck in the net and we didn't capitalize," Eberle said. "You have to give their goalie credit, he played well. And when you get to a shootout it's anybody's game."

Savard opened the scoring 5:35 into the first period, taking a pass from Wennberg in the slot and snapping a shot over the shoulder of Scrivens on the Blue Jackets' first shot of the game. They also scored on their first shot against Edmonton in the win at Columbus on Friday.

Johansen gave the Blue Jackets a 2-0 lead at 3:50 of the second period when his long-range shot sailed through a screen and over Scrivens' shoulder.

Roy cut the Blue Jackets' lead to 2-1 with a power-play goal at 11:00. He took a cross-crease pass from Benoit Pouliot and beat McElhinney, who was unable to slide over in time.

Edmonton outshot Columbus 26-11 through two periods. McElhinney made 12 saves in the second period, including an acrobatic glove stop on Pouliot from in close and a play on which he was able to get a stick out and knock the puck away as Eberle attempted to step around him during a power play.

"It's always nice to get into a game and get some shots early," McElhinney said. "That certainly helped my cause. I think the big issue for me, and the team, has been bad first periods and getting behind by a few goals. So tonight was a nice way to start the game. We put ourselves in some situations that we wouldn't have liked to be in, but for the most part, we found a way to squeak it out."

Nugent-Hopkins tied the game 1:28 into the third period, finishing off a play created by Eberle in front. Eberle jumped on a loose puck in the Blue Jackets' zone, then danced around Artem Anisimov before setting up Nugent-Hopkins for a tap-in. The goal came a few seconds after Columbus forward Cam Atkinson hit the crossbar.

Yakupov put Edmonton ahead for the first time at 9:15, taking a long rebound off the end boards following a shot from Oscar Klefbom and beating McElhinney. But Letestu tied the game at 10:09 when he was allowed room to walk in from the point and blast a shot past Scrivens.

"I thought they had the momentum most of the game and they found a way to take the lead," Letestu said. "They took it to us most of the night. [McElhinney] stole this one for us and sometimes your goalie has to be big like that."

Each team had chances to win before the shootout.

Klefbom nearly put the Oilers in front with just under seven minutes to go in the final period, but his shot hit the crossbar. Rookie Marko Dano nearly won it for the Blue Jackets with 30 seconds left in regulation following a turnover at center ice. He took the puck, got around Klefbom and slid the puck between Scrivens' legs but it bounced off the goal post.

"We played very well in the first period and had a lot of chances on the power play," Yakupov said. "I think that is how we have to play. We had a couple of posts and were kind of unlucky tonight. We played a good game and had lots of chances, but Columbus had their chances too and scored on them."

Columbus continues a three-game Western Canada road trip Thursday at the Vancouver Canucks. Edmonton hosts the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday in the third of a six-game homestand.

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