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Oilers hold off Blackhawks in wild 6-5 win

by Brian Hedger

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Blackhawks have gone from a 24-game points streak to a two-game losing streak.

The Edmonton Oilers got a win they badly needed on Sunday night at United Center by racing out to a 4-0 lead and holding off Chicago for a 6-5 victory, snapping their five-game losing streak.

It was the second regulation loss in three nights for Chicago, which went 21-0-3 before losing 6-2 at Colorado on Friday. They nearly overcame a four-goal deficit to earn a point, but came up short after Patrick Kane's power-play goal 7:08 into the third period got them within a goal.

"It was weird after [losing] the first one," said Kane, who had two goals and an assist, giving him 30 points in 26 games. "Now we’ve got to be careful not to get too down on ourselves, especially after the start we’ve had. We did something really special and no one can ever take that away from you. We were very happy with the start to the season. [We’ve] just got to regroup and get back to that mentality of not wanting to lose."

Chicago (21-2-3) had multiple scoring chances during a power play that began with 7:45 left in the third period. The Blackhawks also put a strong push on Edmonton goalie Yann Danis down the stretch despite having to kill off a late Oilers power play.

After coming in for injured starting goalie Devan Dubnyk in the second period, Danis made 21 saves -- just enough stops to preserve the Oilers' second win in eight games on a nine-game trip that ends in Colorado on Tuesday.

"It’s fun now, because they didn’t score," Danis said of stopping four Chicago shots during the last 6:37 of the game. "I really didn’t have time to think about what was going on. There always [seemed to be] one or two guys in front, so it was always a battle to keep your eyes on the puck. Fortunately, I was able to make the saves and whenever there [were] rebounds they had no second chance."

Sam Gagner, a noted thorn in the Blackhawks’ side, led the way offensively for Edmonton (9-11-5) by scoring two goals – both of which came in that first-period outburst. Taylor Hall scored the eventual game-winner late in the second and added an assist on Ryan Whitney’s tally that made it 3-0 just 9:19 into the game.

In that first period, the Oilers did exactly what they vowed to do the day before in a players-only meeting held to address their recent losing skid, which included back-to-back shutout losses at Detroit on Thursday and Nashville on Friday.

"We’ve had a lot of talks and it’s just a matter of going out and doing it," Gagner said. "We wanted to play with emotion and play a simple game and make sure we played the right way. We did that in the first and it showed on the scoreboard. We got away from it a bit in the second and third, but we know how we have to play. We battled hard for a win and that’s the main thing."

Hall said the win was exactly what the doctor ordered for a young, struggling team.

"This was huge for us," said Hall, who was the game’s third star behind Kane and Gagner. "This was a game-breaker for us. We know that we’re going to have to start winning some games and stringing together some wins if we want to get a playoff spot. It was kind of now or never for us, so we take a lot of pride [in] taking two points out of this building."

Also scoring for Edmonton were Mike Brown and Shawn Horcoff, who played for the first time since a hand injury sidelined him for 15 games.

In addition to Kane's pair, Chicago got goals from Marian Hossa, Sheldon Brookbank and Brent Seabrook.

If there is such a thing as "post-streak hangover," the Blackhawks came out looking like they had a bad case of it. Chicago got outskated and outplayed for almost every minute of the first period and went to the locker room down 4-0 at the first intermission.

"Definitely disappointed with the way we began the game," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. "We've seen that movie before from them. I like the response though after that."

The Oilers started out by putting on a road re-enactment of two blowout losses they handed the Blackhawks at Rexall Place a year ago. Edmonton had a 2-0 lead just three minutes into the game, before the sellout crowd could even get comfortable in their seats following the singing of The Star-Spangled Banner.

It started with Brown’s simple flip of the puck from the high slot that eluded Ray Emery for a 1-0 Oilers’ lead just 2:24 into the game. Gagner then scored his first of the night just 36 seconds later. Magnus Paajarvi found him open 13 feet away and slightly to the left of Emery – who didn’t have a chance to stop a snap shot that beat him short side.

Whitney made it 3-0 about six minutes later by one-timing a cross-ice feed by Hall past Emery, who was then pulled for Corey Crawford.

But the Oilers weren’t done. Gagner added his second goal of the period and ninth of the season at 12:22 to make it 4-0, and that’s how it stayed until the second – which turned out to be a wild 20 minutes. Kane, Hossa, Brookbank and Seabrook all scored for the Blackhawks, while Horcoff and Hall had power-play goals for Edmonton – which also lost Dubnyk at 9:45 after a collision in the crease with teammate Teemu Hartikainen.

Kane scored his second of the game 7:06 into the third by roofing a wrister from the right circle to cap a power play, which pulled the Blackhawks within one and set up the frantic finish.

"The morale never really went down in the group," Oilers coach Ralph Krueger said. "It’s something we spoke about the last two days – the necessity of really digging deep and working hard together to stop this bleeding that was going on the last few games. That was ultimately the goal today, and I really believe it was the will of the group together … that ended up getting us the win."

The Blackhawks are off until Thursday, when they begin a four-game road trip in Columbus.

"We've got to take advantage, take care of our bodies and get ready for Thursday," captain Jonathan Toews said. "It'll be nice."

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