EDMONTON - With just 27 games left in the regular season, the Edmonton Oilers believe they've found the formula for a run at a playoff spot.
Joni Pitkanen had a goal and an assist as the Oilers won their second in a row, defeating the Chicago Blackhawks 4-1 Wednesday night. Jarret Stoll, Dustin Penner and Ethan Moreau also scored for the Oilers (25-26-5), who moved to within five points of eighth place in the Western Conference. Edmonton goaltender Mathieu Garon made 40 saves to collect the win.
Moreau feels the team has found the style of game they need to play.
"We've played really hard the last three games and with a lot of passion and a lot of pride in our game," he said. "It's a good lesson that the harder we play and the more structure we have, the more offence. We just played a tough, gritty game and it's a pretty good equation we are starting to figure out.
"We're keeping it simple and focusing on three or four things that we need to do well to win games. Getting a lot of shots, being physical, being a hard team coming off the puck, we're making sure everybody in this room is doing them. We do those things and we're going to be tough to beat."
One of the bright spots in the last two outings has been the normally anemic power play, which erupted for three goals against Calgary on Monday and two more against the Hawks.
"We've been working on it for the past week, trying different looks and different personnel," Penner said. "And we seem to have found what we needed. The guys are really starting to click."
Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish feels there has been a palpable positive mood swing of late.
"We have lots of energy and lots of good things are happening," he said. "I can't really think of a time all season where we've had this much life on the bench. It's a product of having a little taste of success in the short term here. Hopefully we can continue in the same way and build some wins and get ourselves back into it. It feels like we could put a run together right now, for sure."
Patrick Sharp countered for Chicago (23-25-5), which has lost five in a row.
"Garon played a good game for them," said Hawks head coach Denis Savard. "We should have had a lot more than one goal, no question. The first period was probably the greatest period we've played since the all-star break, but we got in some penalty trouble and that's what happened."
Chicago defenceman Duncan Keith says his team needs to turn things around quickly.
"We're not playing the way we can," he said. "At the same time we know how fast that can change and how fast momentum can change and there's still time but it is dwindling away and we need to get those points."
The Blackhawks scored the game's first goal on the power play with just 43 seconds remaining in the first period as Sharp tipped a Keith point shot past Garon. Chicago had 12 first-period shots while Edmonton put 10 shots on Blackhawks starter Patrick Lalime.
Edmonton evened the score on a power play of their own two minutes into the second as Ales Hemsky threaded a cross-ice pass back to Stoll and the point and he blasted a shot past Lalime.
The Oilers thought they had taken the lead three minutes later as a bad angle shot by Tom Gilbert appeared to have gone in just as the net was knocked off its moorings. A video review determined that the puck actually hit teammate Sam Gagner and never crossed the goal line.
Edmonton seized the lead eight minutes into the middle period on the power play as Penner tipped a Gagner shot over Lalime's shoulder. The Oilers extended the lead 34 seconds later as Moreau out-muscled Cameron Barker in front of the net and redirected a Ladislav Smid shot past Lalime.
Edmonton made it 4-1 in the first minute of the third period as Pitkanen walked in to the top of the face-off circle before unleashing a bullet over Lalime's shoulder.
Notes: Oilers F Shawn Horcoff underwent shoulder surgery on Wednesday morning and will miss the remainder of the season. ... D Sheldon Souray took a trip to see a shoulder specialist in New Jersey to assess his shoulder and determine if he will return the lineup this season Chicago F Martin Lapointe (bruised kidney) suited up for the Hawks for the first time in seven games. There was some more good news for the team Wednesday, as Jonathan Toews took part in practice for the first time since his injury. He'll likely return next week. Edmonton sent F Patrick Thoresen to the Springfield Falcons of the American Hockey League on a conditioning assignment This game marked the 100th all-time meeting between the Oilers and Blackhawks. The teams are dead even at 44-44-12 all-time. ... Pitkanen picked up his 100th career assist in the contest.