They would rather have won Game Seven last season, but defeating the Carolina Hurricanes on Wednesday in the only meeting between the two teams this season at least gave Edmonton a small measure of revenge. Captain Jason Smith's first of the season proved to be the winner as the Oilers knocked off the Carolina Hurricanes 3-1. Brad Winchester and Fernando Pisani also scored for the Oilers, while Craig Adams had the lone reply for the Canes.
Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish was thrilled to see his team come up big against the team that ended their dream of winning the Stanley Cup in Game Seven, especially considering the rash of injuries to key offensive threats his team has suffered with the likes of Ryan Smyth and Ales Hemsky out.
"I'm very happy with the game tonight," said MacTavish. "We played a real good intelligent game. We looked dangerous enough offensively, and I thought our defence played really well.
"We didn't give them much through the neutral zone and we stood up and moved the puck really well. We need to play this way with or without some of the injuries we've had. That's the best we've executed positionally in a long time."
Jarret Stoll, who looked like he had joined the Oilers injured parade after leaving in the first period after taking shots to both legs on a penalty kill only to return in the second, feels the team has done a good job getting back to basics in their last two outings.
"We played simple and we played smart," he said. "And you could tell every time we got to the red-line we got that puck in deep and went around on the forecheck. We weren't fooling around in the neutral zone. When we do that we are not a very good hockey team."
The game may have had more emotional meaning for the Oilers, but Hurricanes netminder Cam Ward says it was an important one for his team as well.
"It was a big game for us," said Ward. "We weren't very satisfied with our outing (a 3-1 loss) last night in Calgary. Since we only play Edmonton once a year, and now have this history between us, it is a big game. We'll learn from it and hopefully come back stronger against Vancouver."
The win moved the Oilers (15-10-2) into sole possession of first place in the Northwest Division, two points up on the idle Minnesota Wild. Carolina lost both of their games in Alberta and now sit at 15-12-3.
The game remained scoreless through a spirited first period as both starters, Jussi Markkanen for the Oilers and Cam Ward for Carolina, were forced to make saves on scrambles, but came through when called upon.
The Oilers were first on the board when early in the second Brad Winchester fought for the puck in the corner, and then swung out front, picking the corner with a wrist shot over the left shoulder of Ward.
Carolina was able to tie it up with eight minutes remaining in the second as Craig Adams tipped a Eric Belanger shot through Markkanen's legs.
But the Oilers regained the advantage with just one minute left to go in the second, when captain Jason Smith scored his first of the season on a blast from the point that found its way past Ward to make it 2-1.
Edmonton increased their lead to two points at 1:44 into the third when Fernando Pisani picked up a rebound and depositing his fifth of the season, giving the Oilers the eventual 3-1 victory.
Carolina head coach Peter Laviolette says the team has to find a way to score more goals after only one tally in their last two outings.
"We have to keep fighting through it," he said. "There is no real excuse for it. I thought our power play did a better job tonight but we just couldn't get it into the back of the net."
In addition to losing, the Canes also lost captain Rod Brind'Amour, who left the game with a lower body injury and did not return. The extent of the injury was not revealed by Laviolette following the match.
Both teams return to action on Friday with the Oilers kicking off a three game road trip in Dallas and the Canes continuing their four-game road swing into Vancouver.
Notes: This was the only meeting of the season between the Oilers and Hurricanes and the first time the two clubs have met in regular season play in three yearsa Mick McGeough officiated in his first game on Edmonton ice since Nov. 3 when he waived off a goal with four seconds left due to a phantom glove pass on the faceoff. The Oilers looked like they were going to take the Dallas Stars to overtime on the play before McGeough, who admitted he blew the call after the game, disallowed the goal. The veteran ref was roundly booed by Edmonton fans when he was announced as an official for the game against the Canes.