EDMONTON - The Edmonton Oilers hope home ice will be more hospitable in December after a good start lifted them to a badly-needed victory at Rexall Place.
Lubomir Visnovsky, Ales Hemsky and Andrew Cogliano led the way with a goal and an assist each as the Oilers defeated the Dallas Stars 5-2 Wednesday, ending a five-game losing streak at home. Shawn Horcoff and Marc Pouliot also scored for Edmonton in a battle between two teams who entered the game sharing the Western Conference basement.
Not only did the Oilers get a win at home, they got it in large part to starting the game off well, something that has not been a hallmark for Edmonton this season.
"We got off to a good start tonight, which has not been our forte here at home," said Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish.
"There was a lot of pressure on the team for this game. We are going back on the road and hadn't played well at home. There was a lot of pressure and sometimes that doesn't bring out your best game but we played well tonight. It sure helps us when we come back having won a game in that fashion."
Horcoff said the Oilers lack of jump to start games has been a killer in the first quarter of the season.
"The games that we have lost in the last five or 10 have been as a result of our starts," he said. "In a lot of those games we were able to come back and play a solid 40 minutes for the rest of the game and give ourselves a chance to get back in the game. But it's too good of a league to be falling behind early all of the time and trying to come back."
The Oilers (11-11-2) won for the first time at home since Oct. 18 and leapt from a three-way tie for last in the West to a three-way tie for ninth".
Mike Modano replied with a pair of goals for Dallas (9-12-4), which saw its season-long two-game winning streak come to an end. The Stars had also won the previous seven meetings between the two teams in Edmonton.
"We were a little flat at the start," Modano said. "It's tough to come from behind like that with a team like this and how good the crowd gets behind them when they get some momentum going. So you play catch up early and it's tough to win."
Dallas was missing controversial forward Sean Avery, who was out of the lineup after being suspended indefinitely for his vulgar pre-game comments on Tuesday before the Stars 3-1 victory in Calgary.
Avery will meet with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman on Thursday.
"I guess time will tell how it plays out and what the future holds for Sean," Modano said. "I think we all support Dave (Tippett) and the management, and Tom Hicks obviously, and what we condone and what we've built as a respect around the league as individuals and the type of atmosphere that we generate over the years. How he fits into that and if things change I can't really tell you right now how that's going to be."
Stars goaltender Marty Turco says it is important that the team gets past the Avery issue.
"We addressed it yesterday and were pretty forthright," he said. "A few of us were honest but we have quite a hole to climb out of as a team and that's what all of our focus has been today and will be, certainly, in the immediate future. I said earlier, it's out of my hands and none of my concern at this point."
Edmonton got onto the board quickly with a goal just 1:10 into the first as Horcoff blasted a shot after crossing the blue-line that blew past Turco, a goal the Stars goalie would likely like back.
The Oilers went up by two with just 12 seconds to play in the first as Cogliano fed Visnovsky at the point, and he unleashed a bullet stick-side on Turco for a 2-0 Edmonton lead after the first.
The Oilers kept coming early in the second as rookie Rob Schremp earned his first career NHL point, making a long pass to Pouliot that he banked in off a sprawling Turco to make it 3-0.
"It was great to get my first point," Schremp said. "I didn't get overexcited but it was a bit of a relief. It felt really good."
Dallas had a chance to get back in it midway through the second on the power play as Loui Eriksson slid the puck under Oilers goalie Mathieu Garon, but missed the open net. It was Garon's first start for Edmonton since Nov. 6.
"It was good to come back," Garon said. "It's been a while since I played and since I got a start. I worked really hard in the last two or three weeks to be ready for that game. I got a bit lucky and the guys played really well in front of me."
The Stars finally scored 1:07 into the third as Garon made the initial save on a Fabian Brunnstrom shot, but the rebound came to Modano who tucked his 10th of the season through the Oiler goalie's legs.
Dallas made it interesting by scoring with just 1:40 to play as Modano scored his second of the game on a shot through the legs of defender Tom Gilbert and past Garon.
The Oilers quickly responded with Hemsky's empty-netter and they rubbed some salt in the wound as Cogliano scored with just 12 seconds remaining.
There was a scary moment midway through the third as Mark Parrish took a puck in the face on a Stephane Robidas slapshot, but the veteran forward was able to remain in the game.
Both teams return to the ice on Friday as the Oilers travel to Los Angeles while Dallas starts a three-game home-stand against Colorado.
Notes: With Oilers forward Robert Nilsson sidelined for up to 10 days with a shoulder injury, recent call-up Rob Schremp took his place on the Kid Line with Andrew Cogliano and Sam Gagner. Schremp, 22, had one goal and 17 assists in 18 games in Springfield this season The game matched two of the three worst penalty killing teams in the NHL with Dallas sitting 28th in the league in the category and the Oilers in 29th Wednesday's game was the first of eight home games for Edmonton in December after playing only seven games in total at Rexall Place in October and November.