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Oilers snap slump by beating Blue Jackets 6-3

by Robin Brownlee /
EDMONTON -- The old goaltender stole the show in the opening 20 minutes and the kids took over the rest of the way as the Edmonton Oilers beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 6-3 at Rexall Place on Thursday night.

Nikolai Khabibulin made 21 of his 37 saves in the first period and rookies Jordan Eberle, Linus Omark and Magnus Paajarvi accounted for four goals as the Oilers put the brakes on a two-game losing streak to wrap up a six-game homestand.

"He's the reason why we win," said Eberle, who scored two goals and had the eventual winner. "He made a lot of key saves early on. That gives you confidence. It helped us get to the point where we could get some chances and bury them when we needed to."

Eberle scored twice, Omark scored his first NHL goal to go with a pair of assists, and Paajarvi had a goal and an assist. Taylor Hall got in on the rookie points parade with 3 assists -- more than enough to negate a hat trick by the Jackets' Kristian Huselius.

But it was Khabibulin, a month short of his 38th birthday, who set the stage for all the offensive fireworks with a stunning first-period display.

That 23 shots is what you should allow in a game," Hall said. "We fixed that. It's something we have to work on, but, at the same time, we were leading, so we'll take that."

Had Khabibulin not outplayed Columbus counterpart Steve Mason by such a wide margin in the opening 20 minutes, the Oilers could have been out of this one by the first intermission.

"He was kind of our savior," defenseman Ryan Whitney said. "He saved us there. He was the star of the game for us because we were able to settle down, have a lead and not be down a couple of goals."

The Blue Jackets, who lost 3-2 in overtime to the Canucks in Vancouver on Wednesday, pumped 23 shots at Khabibulin. He gave up the first two goals by Huselius -- but Mason gave up three on 13 Edmonton shots, and two of those goals were of the weak variety.

Omark made it 1-0 at 3:58 when Mason kicked the Swede's long shot into the slot. Omark raced in, deftly kicked the puck up to his stick and slid it behind Mason.

Eberle got his first of the night and eighth of the season to put the Oilers up 2-1 when he pounced on a puck knocked free from Hall and slid a weak backhand past Mason at 11:25 on Edmonton's fourth shot of the period.

"The kid has to find a way to battle himself out of this," Columbus coach Scott Arniel said of Mason, who allowed all six goals on 27 shots before being replaced by Mathieu Garon to start the third period.

"I know it's a situation where we need to win hockey games, but I talked to him after the first period and told him I was throwing him back in there. It's part of him maturing as a goaltender. He's just got to find a way. He's in his own head right now and he's probably his own worst enemy, but we're going to stick with him here."

After Huselius tied it again at 16:19 with a power-play goal, Dustin Penner put the Oilers ahead to stay at 19:29 on a power play with his 10th. It was all Blue Jackets on the ice, but 3-2 Oilers on the scoreboard after one -- and then the kids took over.

"We had a fantastic start," Arniel said. "Those goals took the wind out of our sails, then we got real loose in the second period and they certainly got a lot more momentum."

When Eberle deflected Whitney's point shot past Mason 3:32 into the second period, the Oilers had four goals on 20 shots and a 4-2 lead. They weren't finished.

Paajarvi tapped the rebound of Omark's shot into the net for his fourth goal of the season and a 5-2 lead at 14:23 before Hall picked up his third assist, stealing a puck and setting up Sam Gagner at 15:12 to make it 6-2.

Huselius completed his hat trick with 1:07 left to close out the scoring.

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