EDMONTON - The Edmonton Oilers are heading into the all-star break on a high note, and they can thank Ales Hemsky for that.
The 25-year-old Czech had two goals and two assists, including the game winner with 34.9 seconds left to play, as the Oilers earned a 4-3 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday. Hemsky's heroics came after he scored twice in his first game back from a 10-game absence due to a concussion in a 6-3 win over Phoenix on Sunday night.
"That was unreal, I haven't seen anything like that in a while," said Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish of Hemsky's performance Tuesday. "Two goals and two assists. We've seen that before. But not where all four are world-class plays.
"It couldn't have come at a better time. He single-handedly willed the win for us. It was a great effort from Ales."
Always hesitant to step into the spotlight, Hemsky downplayed his performance.
"When you have four points or something like that you are always asked if it is the best game in your career," he said. "For me every game we win is what I feel good about. I just want to go out there and do my part. It felt great to win the game. It's a great feeling in this room right now."
Lubomir Visnovsky and Denis Grebeshkov also scored for the Oilers (24-19-3) who have won five of their last six to move back into a playoff position in the Western Conference, tied for sixth at game's end.
"It's a huge lift for us," said Oilers defenceman Sheldon Souray. "We really wanted to get that win going into the break, especially with the way we have been playing the last little while. The team has played better. Our goaltending situation seems to be settled and guys have confidence."
Jared Boll, Marc Methot and Jason Williams replied for the Blue Jackets (22-20-4) who have now lost two of their last three but have played well of late overall with a 4-2 record in their last six.
Not that it was any consolation to head coach Ken Hitchcock.
"We pissed it away," he said. "We turned it over twice in the neutral zone and we gave it away. They had nothing going, we were completely controlling the hockey game. We gave it away. We had a turnover with 47 seconds left. You can't do that.
"We had a great third period, and we gave it away. Bottom line."
Columbus forward Raffi Torres gave credit to ex-teammate Hemsky.
"You almost want to take a blanket out on the ice with you and throw it over him," he said. "He's got tons of skill, he's one of the best players in this league and really underrated. He's a big reason why that team wins on any given night."
Edmonton struck first on the power play five minutes into the opening period as Visnovsky sent a cross-ice pass to Hemsky, then crept in from the point for the return feed and blasted the puck past Columbus starter Steve Mason.
Oilers goaltender Dwayne Roloson had a strong start to the game with several key first period stops, the best of which was a kick save on a point blank shot from Jakub Voracek midway through the first.
The Blue Jackets kept rolling to start the second, and it paid off a minute and a half in as Williams sent a shot into a crowd of players standing in the Oilers crease. The puck caromed to Boll and Roloson was unable to get past the pack to stop the tap-in.
Edmonton regained the lead in the middle of the second period as Hemsky put on the jets to get past Fedor Tyutin and then beat Mason on a top shelf backhander.
It didn't take long for the Jackets to knot the game again, as just a minute and a half later Manny Malhotra put the brakes on during a rush, allowing Melhot to steam in and blast a shot past Roloson to make it 2-2.
Columbus took its first lead of the game with five minutes to play in the middle frame as Williams took a shot from in tight that Roloson waved at with his glove.
The Blue Jackets came close to going up by two midway through the third as a puck snuck behind Roloson before Ladislav Smid fished it out of the crease. The play ended with Roloson throwing punches at Boll for crashing the crease.
Smid's save proved to be a big break for the Oilers as they tied the game up with 4:42 to go just as a power play expired. Hemsky spotted a pinching Grebeshkov and he put everything he had into a shot that beat Mason to tie the game 3-3.
Hemsky got the job done almost single-handedly at the end to give Edmonton the win as he came in on the right hand side and beat Mason top shelf for his 14th in the final minute of play.
The Blue Jackets conclude a three-game Western Canadian road swing in Calgary on Wednesday. Edmonton is off until next Tuesday due to the NHL all-star game.
Notes: Columbus announced on Tuesday that goaltender Pascal Leclaire will undergo ankle surgery and is expected to be sidelined 10-12 weeks. Leclaire's operation is scheduled for Friday Another Jackets netminder, Steve Mason, has been playing through the pain of late. The rookie goalie, who leads the NHL in shutouts and with a goals against average of 1.91 will not be attending the NHL's and shutouts has been suffering YoungStars Game to rest recurring back spasms ... Sticking with goaltenders, the Oilers placed newly-acquired Dany Sabourin on waivers Tuesday. Sabourin came to Edmonton in a trade earlier in the week that sent Mathieu Garon to Pittsburgh ... One game after seeing Hemsky return to the lineup following a concussion, the Oilers had another concussed forward back to play against Columbus as Robert Nilsson came back after a five game absence ... The Blue Jackets were without rookie winger Nikita Filatov, out with a leg injury.