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Panthers top Oilers for third win in a row

by Derek Van Diest /

EDMONTON — The Florida Panthers are spreading the scoring wealth, and that's been the key to their success during the Western Canada portion of a six-game road trip.

Four Panthers scored in 4-2 win against the Edmonton Oilers at Rexall Place on Sunday, extending their win streak to three games. Florida defeated the Vancouver Canucks 3-1 on Thursday and Calgary Flames 6-5 on Friday.

"That's how you're going to win with our hockey team," Panthers coach Gerard Gallant said. "You look at our lineup, we don't have an 80-, 90-point guy, so we have a bunch of guys chipping in and working hard. We play four lines, all the defensemen play and they all chipped in tonight."

Jimmy Hayes, Brian Campbell, Tomas Kopecky and Sean Bergenheim scored for Florida (20-11-9) in the win. Jordan Eberle and Benoit Pouliot scored for Edmonton.

"We've got four balanced lines, they've been chipping in offensively, which is nice and we've been finding ways to win hockey games," Panthers goaltender Roberto Luongo said. "Guys can play up and down the lineup, different styles, different ways. They are hard-nose, they go to the net, and right now, they are getting rewarded. They are doing the things it takes to win hockey games."

Luongo made 31 saves for his 27th career win against Edmonton, the majority coming as a member of the Canucks.

Goaltender Ben Scrivens made 23 saves for the Oilers (10-24-9), who failed to earn at least a point for the second time in seven games since interim coach Todd Nelson took over exclusively for Dallas Eakins.

"We knew coming in, they've been playing well lately and it was going to be a tough game," Luongo said. "There are no easy games for our team in this league. If we want to come to win, we just have to come to play, that's the bottom line no matter who we are facing. We knew it was going to be a tough match and we responded."

Hayes gave Florida a 1-0 lead 4:01 into the first period, picking up a loose puck in front of the net and firing a shot past Scrivens.

Jonathan Huberdeau came close to extending the Florida lead, but his shot from the high slot hit the goal post. The Panthers hit three goal posts in the game.

"We were a little bit sloppy tonight," Oilers center Boyd Gordon said. "We were hanging around, but we couldn't find a way to get on to the winning side. Our first period was a bit all over the place. We haven't found a way to put a full 60 minutes together, and until we do that, we aren't going to win too many games."

Eberle tied the game 4:07 into the second period off a scramble in front.

Luongo had difficulty with a point shot from Oilers defenseman Justin Schultz and was unable to grab the puck in front of him. Eventually it came to Eberle, who put it into an open net.

Campbell put the Panthers up 2-1 at 6:56 of the second when his point shot was deflected by Oilers forward Matt Hendricks on the way to the net and sailed over Scrivens' shoulder.

"I don't think we were at our best tonight, but we found a way to get it done," Campbell said. "It's a big game, getting towards the end of the trip, you have to keep the pedal down. We're a close-knit team, we enjoy spending time with each other, we enjoy sacrificing for each other, and we're committed. We have energy on the road with [Gallant] playing everybody. I think a lot of consistency in our ice time helps for us to be fresh every night."

Kopecky scored 5:08 into the third period to increase Florida's lead to 3-1, taking a pass from Derek MacKenzie and beating Scrivens from in close.

Panthers forward Scottie Upshall won a race to the puck behind the Oilers net and slid it to MacKenzie, who spotted Kopecky in front.

Pouliot scored 32 seconds later, converting on a rebound, to pull the Oilers within a goal.

"There were really two things that led to the loss, our lack of execution and turning the puck over," Nelson said. "We have to find consistency, no matter who we are playing against. Florida played a strong game. They managed the puck better than us. They got pucks in behind us. I thought we did some pretty good things once we got the puck in the offensive zone, but if they did break down, Luongo was there for them."

Bergenheim restored the two-goal lead at 15:28, converting on a turnover by Oilers forward Nail Yakupov at the Edmonton blue line.

Yakupov had the puck poked away from him and it bounced to Bergenheim, who shot it past Scrivens.

"It's a 3-2 game at that point, you have to manage the puck better," Nelson said. "I say that about the whole group. We have to recognize the score of the game and the time of the game and be smarter than that."

The loss kept the Oilers at the bottom of the NHL standings with 29 points. They begin a four-game road trip Tuesday at the St. Louis Blues. Florida concludes its road trip Tuesday at the Winnipeg Jets.

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