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GAME STORY: Oilers 5, Stars 4

Matt Benning's third period tally with 2:27 left pushed the Oilers past the Dallas Stars 5-4

by Paul Gazzola / EdmontonOilers.com

EDMONTON, AB - Back and forth. Back and forth.

The Oilers came out on top in their rat race against the Dallas Stars Thursday night, defeating the visiting squad 5-4 to improve to 3-5-1.

Video: OILERS TODAY | vs Stars Post-Game

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The Oilers offence was bound to break through at some point and it finally did Thursday. Edmonton put up five even-strength markers, scoring more than three goals in a game for the first time in 2017-18.

"The biggest thing is contributions from all around the lineup," said Ryan Strome. "If the challenge with this team is scoring goals, I don't think it's too big of an issue. I think we can solve that."

Matt Benning scored the game-winner with 2:27 left to play, releasing a one-timer from the blueline that caught a bounce off Alexander Radulov's skate. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored twice to make it four on the season while Patrick Maroon and Connor McDavid rounded out the other tallies. 

Leon Draisaitl nabbed a trio of assists and Darnell Nurse picked up two of his own. Cam Talbot, meanwhile, made 28 saves on 32 shots in backstopping the club to their third win of the season and first of their five-game homestand.

Edmonton won only 41 percent of their draws. The club killed two of five penalties against and went 0-for-3 on the man-advantage.

"When I look at the goals that we gave up tonight, they went through us," said Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan of the penalty kill. "We weren't middle strong, we didn't have good sticks and we got out-muscled near the net."

McDavid gave the home team their first lead since October 7, after a Strome tripping call expired.

Draisaitl moved the puck to Strome as he stepped out of the box and the winger quickly moved it to McDavid cutting up the middle. The Oilers Captain encroached upon Ben Bishop all alone, pulling the puck inside then raising it above the netminder's blocker for his fifth goal of the season. 

"I sit in the penalty box for two minutes there, so I'm just trying to make a play and get back in it," said Strome of the sequence that led to the goal. "Great finish by him (McDavid). Great players make great plays."

But Dallas Stars captain Jamie Benn replied swiftly, tying the game not much more than a minute later. Benn deposited a nice feed from Radulov, who fooled a few Oilers into believing he was curling behind the net. Benn placed the puck past Talbot far side for his sixth goal of the season at 11:34.

Video: Nugent-Hopkins, Draisaitl power Oilers to 5-4 victory

It wasn't until 24 seconds were left in the first period when Maroon gave the club a late lead with his fourth of the season.

The winger's centring pass from the half wall caught a redirection off Stars defenceman Marc Methot's skate in front of Dallas' net, getting just out of reach of Bishop's outstretched pad. Draisaitl registered his second assist of the period while Nurse also picked up a helper on the play.

Early in the middle period, Mark Letestu was called for tripping and Dallas - owning the League's eighth-ranked power play - converted. Tyler Seguin threaded a pass to Radulov on the right side and the Russian zipped a one-timer back bar and out to even the game up at 2-2.

"When teams go through the heart of the slot, they're scoring," said McLellan.

The top line of Maroon-McDavid-Draisaitl almost made it 3-2 midway through the second. The three entered the attacking zone with McDavid in possession of the puck. He bought some time while Draisaitl ran a route to the net, clearing a lane for Maroon on his off-wing. McDavid moved the puck to Maroon for a one-timer but Bishop slid across for the stop.

Talbot's goalmouth save on Mattias Janmark led to the Oilers next goal. After thwarting Janmark on the doorstep, the play went up ice and Nugent-Hopkins, Kris Russell and Strome converged on a 3-on-2. Russell fanned on his shot but Nugent-Hopkins stuck with the puck, digging it out from behind the net and tucking it near the left post for his third of the season at 13:46, giving Edmonton a 3-2 advantage.

"I asked him to play perhaps with a little more risk in the summer," said McLellan of Nugent-Hopkins, who's off to a good start this season. "He's got a nice little pace going here to get back up to that 20-goal barrier where he should be."

Video: THE OTHER SIDE | Stars Post-game

Special teams continued tormenting the Oilers, who went 1-for-3 on the penalty kill through 40 minutes. Drake Caggiula got called for hooking after Edmonton gained the lead, and once again, the Stars scored. Benn netted his second of the game off a rebound at 16:19. Radulov recorded his third point of the night on the play with an assist. 

Edmonton got close to scoring late on a man-advantage of their own, putting the puck within inches of surpassing the goal line, but the teams would retreat to the dressing room for the second intermission deadlocked at three.

A slashing penalty by Nurse handed the Stars their fifth power play of the night and Ese Lindell took advantage, depositing the puck into an open cage at 10:35 to give Dallas a 4-3 lead.

But Nugent-Hopkins answered with his second of the game and fourth of the year. He beat Bishop with a high slot wrister blocker side at 12:16, making for a dramatic finish in what was a back-and-forth rat race from the beginning.

"It definitely is nice when you get rewarded like that," Nugent-Hopkins said of his two-goal performance. "I felt the last couple of games our line had been really close to scoring but hadn't been able to get it done. Tonight definitely feels nice."

Benning then capped the night with his game-winner.

"We got some bounces," said McDavid. "The second goal and even the last goal. We need those."

The Oilers host the Washington Capitals Saturday.

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