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Hall helps Oilers win third straight, get past Sabres

by Derek Van Diest

EDMONTON — After dropping to the bottom of the NHL standings less than a week ago, the Edmonton Oilers are within three points of a playoff spot in the Pacific Division.

Forwards Taylor Hall and Teddy Purcell each had a goal and assist for Edmonton in a 4-2 win against the Buffalo Sabres at Rexall Place on Sunday.

The victory extended Edmonton's win streak to a season-high three games and got them into the Stanley Cup Playoff picture. It is the second time this season they won three consecutive games.

The Oilers trail the Arizona Coyotes, who lost 5-4 on Sunday, by three points for third place in the Pacific Division.

"It's nice to win three in a row at home, it's a nice boost for our group," Hall said. "You look at the standings and we're getting closer and closer to where were we want to be. As we start getting bodies back [from injuries] it's important to stay in it."

Jordan Eberle and Luke Gazdic also scored for Edmonton. Goaltender Anders Nilsson made 32 saves for his eighth win of the season.

Jack Eichel and Ryan O'Reilly scored for Buffalo in the first of a three-game Western Canada road trip. The Sabers visit the Vancouver Canucks on Monday.

"It's nice to get on a little bit of a roll," Nilsson said. "We need to continue on this path and get more wins so that we can get in the playoff race. I thought we played a good game other than giving up too many power plays. Other than that, we battled hard and it was nice to score some goals, too."

The game was supposed to be the first meeting between the top two picks in the 2015 NHL Draft, No. 1 Connor McDavid and No. 2, Eichel. McDavid did not play because of a fractured clavicle sustained in a 4-2 win against the Philadelphia Flyers on Nov. 3. The teams play again in Buffalo on March 1, where McDavid is expected to be back in the lineup.

Eichel scored at 6:58 of the first period to give Buffalo a 1-0 lead, snapping a backhand shot past Nilsson.

Purcell tied the game at 9:36, tipping a point shot from Hall past Chad Johnson.

Eberle scored at 16:06 to put Edmonton up 2-1, converting a centering pass from Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.

"I thought we responded well after their goal," Eberle said. "I think we lost our momentum a little bit in the game flow, we took some penalties. We kept going after that and we had control of the game the whole time I think."

Hall extended the Oilers' lead to 3-1 on the power play at 18:55. The Oilers left wing fed Purcell at the side of the Sabres' net, then headed to the front for a return pass.

Purcell flipped the puck in front where it hit center Zemgus Girgensons and landed in the crease, allowing Hall to tap it in.

"We just turned too many pucks over," Eichel said. "We were feeding their transition. A lot of times it comes down to making plays and we didn't make them. Our forwards weren't supporting the 'D' well enough, we missed a lot of passes that were easy that we should make."

O'Reilly cut the lead to 3-2 on a power play 13:22 into the second period. The Sabres leading scorer took a pass in front from defenseman Zach Bogosian, outwaited Nilsson, and lifted a shot over the fallen goaltender.

Gazdic restored Edmonton's two-goal lead at 17:43 with his first goal of the season, which he was able to celebrate three times. He crashed the net on a scramble in front and the puck went in off his skate but the goal was reviewed. The call on the ice stood after iit was ruled there was no distinct kicking motion on the play. The Sabres then challenged the goal on goaltender interference, but the goal still stood.

"I wasn't sure what happened, I just kind of drove the net," Gazdic said. "I wasn't sure if I kicked it and I wasn't sure about the goalie getting pushed on. It's a big goal for us, a big goal for our team, and obviously, we're happy about it. I got to celebrate three times over, either way, I'm happy that it contributed to a win here."

Johnson made 24 saves for the Sabres, who outshot the Oilers 16-6 in the third period.

"I think pretty much for the first 30 minutes of the game, Edmonton did a great job of putting every puck behind us," Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said. "They put a lot of pressure on us with their speed and forced us in a lot of areas with the way they executed with the puck and got in there."

Girgensons left the game in the third period after taking a puck to the face and did not return. Bylsma wasn't sure of the extent of the injury after the game.

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