EDMONTON - Wasn't the goal for the Edmonton Oilers this year to avoid going to the shootout every single night?
Marc Pouliot scored the shootout winner as the Oilers finally recorded a pre-season victory for the first time in four tries, defeating the Florida Panthers 3-2 on Thursday night. It was the third straight game at home this pre-season that has gone to the shootout session and the first win for the Oilers in extra time.
Edmonton made a habit of going to shootouts last season, setting NHL records in both appearances and wins with a 15-4 record.
But the resurgent Edmonton club is touted as having enough offensive upside to be able to win games outright this season instead of going to the skills competition.
"I thought we were done with this," said Oilers goalie Mathieu Garon, who won 10 shootout sessions last year. "Now it seems like we might have a few this season after all. We might as well get some practice at it in the pre-season."
Oilers forward Andrew Cogliano felt it shouldn't have come to that as his team let up in the third and allowed the Panthers back into the contest.
"It was a pretty fluky goal for them at the end," he said. "It was nice to win but we don't want to be going down that path again all season."
Tyler Spurgeon and Robert Nilsson scored in regulation for the Oilers (1-1-2).
"It was a mental health win," said Edmonton head coach Craig MacTavish. "I thought it was going to be easier than that but it is always good to win.
"It was disappointing in the third. I felt so good with the way we played in the first two periods that I didn't think much could sidetrack us. But we got a little tight in the third."
Radek Dvorak and Anthony Stewart replied for the Panthers (2-0-1). They had been looking to start a pre-season 3-0 for the first time in franchise history.
Edmonton scored first, eight minutes into the first period, as Spurgeon stole the puck along the sideboards and skated in front of the Panthers net before sending a long backhand past Florida starter Tomas Vokoun.
It looked like Spurgeon may have had a second goal with three minutes to play in the period, but the whistle had sounded a split second before he batted in a puck under Vokoun.
Florida replaced Vokoun with Craig Anderson midway through the second, and he came under fire early during an Oilers two-man advantage. Edmonton made good on it as Sam Gagner feathered a beautiful pass through the crease to Nilsson, who was unprotected at the side of the net and had an easy tap-in to make it 2-0.
Florida finally scored midway through the third as Dvorak was able to lift a puck over Oilers goalie Mathieu Garon, who had been knocked out of the play by Rostislav Olesz.
Florida kept on pressing in the late stages and managed to tie it up with 1:42 remaining as Stefan Meyers sent a long shot on net and Stewart was able to deflect it past Garon.
The Panthers play in Calgary on Friday while the Oilers get a bit of a break before hosting the Flames next Tuesday.
Notes: The Oilers took an axe to their training camp roster on Thursday afternoon, sending 15 players packing. Fourteen of those are heading to their AHL affiliate in Springfield, including goalie Andrew Perugini, defencemen Sebastien Bisaillon, Josef Hrabal, Jake Taylor, Cody Wild and Bryan Young and forwards Hans Benson, Justin Chwedoruk, Garet Hunt, Bryan Lerg, Colin McDonald, Sean McMorrow, Ryan O'Marra and Geoff Paukovich. Edmonton also returned 2008 first round draft choice Jordan Eberle to the Regina Pats of the WHL. . . . The Panthers were playing their third game in as many nights, following a pair of 3-2 victories against Calgary and Edmonton the two nights previous. The Oilers were playing their fourth game in four nights, losing their first three games by one goal.