EDMONTON, AB - There was no love lost between the Oilers and Devils as tensions mounted in a physical battle that resulted in 3-2 overtime win for Edmonton, courtesy of a game-winning goal by Leon Draisaitl.
"It's huge. It's basically playoff time for us now," said Draisaitl. "We need every single point. You know every team is battling for a playoff spot right now and we're in the hunt. We're thankful for every point we get."
Edmonton's next game comes against provincial rivals, the Calgary Flames, on Saturday, at Rogers Place. The game begins at 8 p.m. MT and can be seen on CBC, or head on 630 CHED and the Oilers Radio Network.
Midway through the first, the Rogers Place crowd cheered Taylor Hall as the club played a video tribute for their 2010 first-overall pick. Hall was making his debut in the building for the first time as a member of the Devils organization, after being acquired via trade in the off-season.
The game would get chippy and Hall would become involved in some of the rough stuff later on.
The Devils struck first with just 1:54 remaining in the first period, despite being outshot 9-4 by Edmonton at the time. Kyle Palmieri attempted a wraparound and Travis Zajac was on the doorstep to finish off the play.
With 20 seconds left to play in the first, Karl Stollery leveled Oilers winger Jordan Eberle from behind along the boards. Eberle's teammate Ryan Nugent-Hopkins quickly jumped in and a brief scrum ensued before the officials quelled the chaos.
The nastiness continued at the buzzer, signaling the end of the first frame. Oilers defenceman Kris Russell took exception to a hit in the corner as time expired by Palmieri, so the blueliner started swinging and quickly took down his opponent.
The animosity carried over to the start of the second period. Maroon and PA Parenteau engaged in some heated shoving before the puck even dropped at centre.
"We've got a lot of guys in our room that feed off that game, that's their type of game," said McDavid. "We knew they were going through a hard time and their coach was on them and that kind of thing. We expected this kind of game."
The Oilers, seeming to feed off their new-found aggression, tied the game just 16 seconds into the middle frame. Defenceman Andrej Sekera zipped a shot past Cory Schneider to make it 1-1, assisted by Draisaitl and Adam Larsson.
The Oilers had a glorious opportunity to take the lead with a little more than 12 minutes to go in the second. Eberle and Benoit Pouliot skated down the ice on a 2-on-1 when Eberle ripped a shot that beat Schneider but rang off the crossbar.
Hall made his return to Edmonton sweeter by picking up an assist on the go-ahead goal with 51 seconds left in the second. Hall whipped a shot on net and it went in off Steven Santini. The goal will go down as Santini's first in the NHL. Paranteau was awarded the second assist.
The feistiness of the game came to a boiling point less than three minutes into the third when Hall caught his former Windsor Spitfires and Oilers teammate Zack Kassian in the mouth with the butt end of his stick off a draw. Kassian, mouth bloodied, went after the winger and landed a punch while bodies from both sides came flying in. Kassian received a roughing penalty, while Hall served a double minor for a high-stick.
"We talk about blows to the head and I don't know if Taylor has had concussions before or not, maybe he has, but I didn't think it was a very clean play by any means and good for Kass for standing up for himself," said Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan.
"I meant to give him a nudge, not in the face, but definitely give him a nudge," said Hall. "It wasn't a smart play. I definitely deserved four minutes there and if I could go back and take that back… sometimes your emotions get the best of you and you want battle off a faceoff but not like that. I'd like to have that one back."
Patrick Maroon tied the game for Edmonton at 12:36 of the third frame, scoring his team-leading 17th goal of the season from the crease, assisted by Draisaitl and McDavid.
"Everyone is winning right now," said Maroon. "We've got to keep finding ways to find big wins. We did that tonight."
Just 22 seconds into overtime, Sekera tried to put it away with a backhanded, five-hole attempt all alone in front. However, the defenceman was denied by Schneider.
In the end, it was McDavid setting up Draisaitl for a backdoor one-timer that sealed the deal for the Oilers at 1:50 of overtime.
"With (McDavid), you always have to be ready," said Draisaitl. "He can make things happen out of nothing. What a nice pass, and it was pretty easy to tap that one in."
The Oilers (22-15-7) host their provincial rivals, the Calgary Flames, on Saturday night in a key Pacific Division battle.