EDMONTON -- Visits from Eastern Conference opponents seem to be the remedy for the Edmonton Oilers' early-season slump.
After losing their first five games of the season, the Oilers climbed back to .500 with a 3-0 win against the Montreal Canadiens on Monday at Rexall Place.
It was the fourth consecutive victory for the Oilers, who started the season on a five-game losing streak (0-4-1). All four wins this season have come against Eastern opponents; the streak began with a 3-2 victory against the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Oilers (4-4-1) also defeated the Washington Capitals 3-2 and the Carolina Hurricanes 6-3.
"It may be a confidence thing, I'm trying to figure it out," Oilers coach Dallas Eakins said. "It's easy to sit here and say that word 'heaviness' in our division, but I'm starting not to buy that. Maybe it's a confidence issue and we're going to look at that. That's a very good hockey team that we played [Monday]. We were able to play with them, got some good goaltending, were able to kill penalties when we needed to and we were able to score when we needed to. I don't see why we can't exude the confidence we showed [Monday] against teams in our own division."
Benoit Pouliot, Nail Yakupov and Taylor Hall scored for the Oilers. Goaltender Ben Scrivens made 29 saves for his first shutout of the season and seventh of his career. Goalie Dustin Tokarski stopped 16 shots for the Canadiens (7-2-0), who had their four-game win streak snapped.
"Montreal is obviously the class of the League right now, so we knew we had to be ready for them," Scrivens said. "They're a smaller, speedy, scrappy team, so you kind of knew they would be crashing the net. That's how they generate some offense, is getting those second and third whacks. I just tried to battle for my position and tried to see every shot. I thought the guys in front of me did a great job. A lot of big blocks for us, they played really well clearing pucks and all that."
The Oilers had not won four consecutive games since winning five straight from March 26-April 3, 2013. They had not shut out the Canadiens since March 1, 1989.
"I don't think we played the right way from the start," Montreal defenseman P.K. Subban said. "We are a good team and we are going to generate opportunities, but I don't think we were playing our hockey game out there. We have to play our system and it seemed like some guys were on their own page. We have played a lot of good hockey of late and this is not time to panic, but we have to play the same way every game and I don't think we played the way that has gotten us so much success early in the season."
Pouliot opened the scoring with 18.2 seconds left in the first period, taking a pass from Mark Arcobello in front, getting around Tokarski and roofing a backhand shot into the net. The goal was Pouliot's first with the Oilers; the left wing signed a five-year free agent contract with Edmonton this past summer after playing with the New York Rangers last season.
Yakupov extended the lead at 6:33 of the second period with his second goal of the season. The Oilers right wing was left alone at the side of the net and spotted by Pouliot for an easy tap-in.
"Overall, it was a good game, it was really tight," Yakupov said. "That's a good team, they are really hard to play against. We can see why they made it to the [Eastern] conference final last season. It was the type of game that you have to play really smart, stick to the system and play the right way."
The Canadiens had a goal waved off midway through the first period after Max Pacioretty scored following a scramble in front. Montreal right wing Brendan Gallagher was ruled to have interfered with Scrivens after being pushed through the crease by Oilers defenseman Jeff Petry.
In the third period, the Canadiens pressed but had difficulty getting shots through. The Oilers blocked 21 shots in the game. Defensemen Mark Fayne had six blocks and center Boyd Gordon had five.
"It's a huge testament to those guys, they're fearless out there," Scrivens said. "It's kind of crazy, I have all the gear, it kind of makes sense for me to block shots, but those guys are laying themselves on the line and putting themselves in danger and we have to respond to that. You can't talk about this win without mentioning those big block shots in the second and third."
Hall scored into an empty net with 2:18 left in the third period with Tokarski pulled for the extra skater. The Oilers left wing took a pass off the boards from Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and outraced the Canadiens defense to the empty net.
"We spent a lot of time in the offensive zone," Montreal coach Michel Therrien said. "We were just having a hard time generating offense. The Oilers blocked a lot of shots, you have to give them credit. Their goalie made some key saves too. It's a fine line between winning and losing. We had some terrible turnovers at the end of the first period and they capitalized on it."
The Canadiens continue their three-game Western Canada road trip Tuesday against the Calgary Flames. They finish the road trip Thursday at the Vancouver Canucks.
The Oilers continue their seven game homestand against the Nashville Predators on Wednesday. The homestand concludes Saturday against Vancouver.