EDMONTON, AB - Jordan Eberle snapped a goal drought in dramatic fashion, scoring the third-period equalizer and sending the game to overtime where Connor McDavid polished things off with 2.6 seconds left for the wild 4-3 win.
The Oilers did not play their best game, but still managed to come away with an important two points.
"These two points feel very good, I'll tell you that, because we didn't play our best game," said Oilers defenceman Oscar Klefbom. "I think none of us in here is happy with tonight's game overall, but it's two points and points that could take us to the playoffs."
"Obviously, we're not going to be perfect all season, but putting two points in the bank is really important for our team," said Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan. "When it comes to April, it won't matter how that game was played. We'll only know we have the points in the bank. But I can tell you this, if we move forward playing that way it will be a long time before we win again."
The Panthers came out flying early with a few good chances on Cam Talbot in the opening 1:30. The Oilers goaltender made three saves in succession to keep it scoreless.
Florida may have had the early jump, but the Oilers came storming back. McDavid walked in, unchecked, over the blueline on the right wing and sauced a pass through three Panthers players to Zack Kassian backdoor. Kassian buried the superb feed at 6:10 of the first, to give the Oil a 1-0 advantage.
The goal snapped a 37-game drought for Kassian, and McDavid's assist was his 100th career NHL point, coming in his 92nd game.
The career milestone is the fourth fastest the 100-point mark has been reached among active players, behind Alex Ovechkin (77), Sidney Crosby (80) and Evgeni Malkin (89).
The Oilers took a 2-0 lead when Mark Letestu scored on a power-play redirection off his skate at 15:04 of the first. McDavid and Andrej Sekera recorded the assists. Letestu's goal was his fifth on the man advantage this season, moving him to second on the team. It also ties a career high he set during the 2013-14 season while with Columbus.
"I thought, all in all, the team had a great start," said Kassian. "We hemmed them in their zone then we started to get cute, started to turn pucks over and they've got forwards who can skate and make plays and D that jump in the rush. We ended up getting in trouble, but we found a way to win."
The Panthers clawed their way back to within one with a top-shelf snipe by Vincent Trocheck at 17:13 of the opening frame.
A Benoit Pouliot holding-the-stick penalty gave Florida the window they needed to tie the game with 1:25 remaining in the second period. Michael Sgarbossa cleaned up a loose puck in front of Talbot for his first NHL goal.
The ageless wonder Jaromir Jagr set up the go-ahead goal with 5:15 left in the third frame. Greg McKegg got a piece of it on the way in.
Eberle answered back with a big goal, both for the team and personally. The Oilers winger led the way down the ice on a two-on-one rush and chose to shoot it, burying the puck and snapping an 18-game goalless drought at 17:01. The equalizer was Eberle's eighth of the season, and first since December 6.
"It's nice to put the puck in again," said Eberle. "To get it at that time where we needed it to get us to overtime, it felt good. Hopefully, there's more to come."
"The little nuances within the game is Ebs got on the score sheet with a big goal at a big time. We counted on him to do that and he got it done tonight. That's a good start for him," said McLellan.
"Kass as well, I think Kass has more disallowed goals than goals now during this season, which is real unfortunate for him. But he's a pretty good soldier. He shows up and knows where he is in the lineup, he's accepted the penalty kill, so for him to get a goal is good as well."
For the 13th time in the Oilers last 26 games, things had to be settled beyond the third period.
With 3:47 left in OT, Eberle nearly scored the game-winner. The winger came down the ice on a two-on-one and was set up in front by Ryan Nugent-Hopkins but his shot couldn't find twine.
The Rogers Place crowd thought their captain had scored with 2.6 seconds left in overtime but James Reimer got his glove on it. The play needed a lengthy review to determine whether or not the puck crossed the line in Reimer's glove. The celebrations continued when the officials announced it was a good goal.
Leon Draisaitl recorded his 100th NHL point as well on the assist to spring McDavid on the game-clinching breakaway.
The Oilers, with the win, move to 25-15-7 on the season. They host the Nashville Predators next on Friday night at Rogers Place.