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Paajarvi, Hall shine in Oilers' win

by Robin Brownlee /
EDMONTON -- After four straight seasons out of the playoffs, Edmonton Oilers fans didn't file into Rexall Place on Thursday to see a pre-season win over the Tampa Bay Lightning. They wanted a glimpse of what they hope will be a brighter future in the form of Taylor Hall and Magnus Paajarvi.

Hall, the first overall pick in the 2010 Entry Draft, and Paajarvi, selected 10th by the Oilers in 2009, gave the people what they came for, and then some, in a 5-2 win over the Lightning.

While Hall delivered with his first goal in his pre-season debut in front of Edmonton fans, it was Paajarvi, a soft-spoken Swede with a silky stride, who stole the show with three goals and an assist.

A sight for sore eyes, they were.

"That was maybe a little too much," laughed Paajarvi, asked if he ever imagined introducing himself by scoring three goals.

Paajarvi, 19, hasn't garnered nearly as much fanfare as Hall since the Oilers selected him from Timra IK in Sweden, but many believe he might be more NHL ready after playing three years in the Swedish Elite League. It was tough to argue with that assessment this night.

"I came here to make the team, obviously," Paajarvi said. "I feel ready, but you have to work hard every day. I can't look into the future, but it's all up to me."

Paajarvi was good and lucky in tying the game 1-1 as he danced around Mike Vernace and fooled Dan Ellis when he fanned on a wrist shot, only to have it slide into the net on a power play.

After picking up a second assist on Andrew Cogliano's power-play goal to put the Oilers up 2-1 after 20 minutes, Paajarvi scored his second when he one-timed a Dustin Penner pass behind Ellis from the top of the circle make it 3-1 at 6:50 of the second period.

Paajarvi had fans throwing their headgear on the ice with his hat-trick goal, a harmless-looking shot from the wing to make it 5-1 in the third period with the Oilers shorthanded.

"They don't throw hats back home, so that was really cool," smiled Paajarvi. "That was something I've never experienced before. It's not a tradition back home."

Hall, 18, who scored 40 goals last season on the way to leading Windsor to its second straight Memorial Cup, got the crowd buzzing just under six minutes in when he took a pass from Sam Gagner and rattled a wrist shot off the post under the glove of Ellis.

"I was actually a lot less nervous than I thought I was going to be," said Hall, who played just over 17 minutes and finished with three shots. "For the first five minutes, it took me a little while to settle in, but then I got going from there."

Not to let Paajarvi completely steal the spotlight, Hall gave the crowd something to yell about when he knocked down an Ellis clearing attempt and slid a backhand into the net on a power play to make it 4-1.

"It was a lot of fun out there," Hall said. "Even though it was an exhibition game, it's fun to contribute."

Ales Hemsky, who lined up on right wing with Gagner and Hall, had a front-row seat and was more than a little impressed.

"It's not easy to walk into an NHL dressing room as an 18-year-old," said Hemsky. "You think, 'Wow.'

"It's not easy to get adjusted, but he's a good player. He's fast. He's powerful. I don't think he's going to have a problem with anything. There's so much pressure on him, off the ice and on the ice, but he's handled it really well. He's a good kid, and really confident, too."

With Nikolai Khabibulin skating and practicing after surgery to repair a herniated disc in his back but yet to see action in Edmonton's first two pre-season games, Devan Dubnyk and Deslauriers split duties in goal.

Dubnyk, who allowed both goals in a 3-2 win over Vancouver on Wednesday while splitting time with Martin Gerber, allowed just one goal, the 1-0 marker by Randy Jones, on 20 shots.

Deslauriers, who carried the bulk of the workload after Khabibulin went down with the bad back, faced eight shots and gave up the 5-2 goal by Carter Ashton in his first appearance of pre-season.

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