Kris Russell’s first goal as an Edmonton Oiler turned out to be the game-winner as the Oilers edged the Florida Panthers 4-3 Wednesday night.
“I think they’re a team that transitions the puck better than most, and then their east to west games; they can make plays through you,” said Russell. “So they’ve got high-end talent and I thought we did a pretty good job. There are areas we can clean up, but they’re a talented group and they’re playing well right now so I thought we really answered the bell tonight.”
Russell had last scored against San Jose on February 11, 2016, a stretch of 60 games without a goal.
The Oilers have won eight straight road games against the Panthers.
The Oilers opened the scoring 5:18 into the game when Oscar Klefbom banged his point shot in off the post. It was Klefbom’s eleventh of the season, which ties him for third in the NHL in goals by a defenceman.
A wild second period started with the Panthers scoring on a power play 21 seconds into the session. Aaron Ekblad’s point shot hit Andrej Sekera on the left arm. The loose puck was then fired home by Aleksander Barkov. Sekera left the game, returned about halfway through the period, then left the game for good after a couple of shifts. That left the Oilers with five defencemen for the rest of the game.
Zack Kassian finished a long session of Oilers forechecking when he got a piece of a Eric Gryba’s shot with 9:34 left in the second. Colton Sceviour replied for the Panters about five minutes later. With just over a minute to go in the frame, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins jammed in the rebound of a Milan Lucic shot to make it 3-2 Edmonton. However, Matt Hendricks took a holding penalty off the ensuing face-off, and once again the Panthers evened the game with Jonathan Marchessault scoring on the power play with 3.9 seconds left in the period.
Russell finished a rush with 7:58 to go. Connor McDavid dropped a pass to Leon Draisaitl, who find a wide-open Russell trailing the play.
Cam Talbot made 31 saves for the win.
“If you were at the game last night and then showed up and watched this one it was two different teams,” said head coach Todd McLellan. “We figured we had about 11 players last night, tonight we had 20. It takes that much to win at this time of year. So the message got through. I’m happy that the leaders took care of a few things. Got tremendous games from guys that had a lot of trouble last night. So it’s in them, we just got to get it out every night.”
The Oilers improve to 33-20-8 on the season. They’ll play in Washington Friday. (jrw)