Gagner blast gives Oilers much-needed win
Sam Gagner certainly hasn't been the Oilers' most prolific scorer this season, but you can't knock his listening skills.
Stuck on three goals for the season, the second-year forward heeded calls from Edmonton coach Craig MacTavish and the team's scouting staff to step up offensively and aim high against St. Louis Blues goalie Manny Legace.
Gagner one-timed an Erik Cole feed through a screen and under the crossbar at 6:31 of the third period for his second career game-winning goal in a 2-1 Oilers victory on Sunday night.
"It's great for Sam," MacTavish said. "He's put a lot of pucks at the net and hasn't had a lot of luck."
The former Ontario Hockey League standout added an assist to give him four goals and 16 points in 38 games this season following a 49-point rookie campaign.
But on this night he was a big offensive star for an Edmonton outfit that dearly misses right-winger and team scoring leader Ales Hemsky, who is out with a concussion.
With just 16 goals to show for their past six outings, the Oilers need strong play from netminder Dwayne Roloson, who stopped 21 of 22 St. Louis shots in his sixth consecutive start.
His biggest save came in the third period after an Edmonton clearing attempt bounced off Gagner's stick to David Backes, whose shot found Roloson's glove.
Legace was pulled with 70 seconds left in regulation, but the Oilers defence stood tall to secure the team's ninth win in 20 home starts this season and fifth in a row against the Blues.
'We showed a lot more emotion'
After holding a lengthy players-only meeting to address team emotion and the will to win following their 4-1 loss to San Jose on Friday, veteran Edmonton defenceman Steve Staios was glad the message seemed to have sunk in.
"It's always great to see the initial reaction after you have a talk like that," he said. "We showed a lot more emotion and played a much better skating game. We had great support from our forwards tonight. It helped us move the puck out of our zone. We spent far less time in our own zone tonight, and I think that was a key factor in the win. It was an all-team effort."
Gagner agreed the team needs to start playing more like they did toward the end of last season.
"We talked the last few days about getting that energy back," he said. "Last year at the end of the season we were gaining energy from everything whether a hit or a big play. We really need to establish that again.
"There was a lot of emotion tonight, and that's the way we have to play. Hopefully we can build off of it."
Edmonton raised its record to 20-18-3 and received some encouraging play from forwards Gilbert Brule and Ryan Potulny, who was recalled Saturday from Springfield of the American Hockey League.
Brule, acquired in a trade from Columbus for forward Raffi Torres last July, snapped a 56-game goalless drought at 8:49 of the second period to answer Yan Stastny's third goal of the season.
After getting behind St. Louis defencemen Barret Jackman and Roman Polak, Brule took a pass from Potulny and moved backhand to forehand before lifting the puck over Legace's shoulder.
"I was cheating a little bit and was wide open for the pass," Brule said. "I broke in and went upstairs because he is a smaller goalie. We talked about that before the game."
The Blues, despite winning their previous two games by a combined score of 11-6, were unable to muster a second goal and fell to 16-22-3, last in the NHL's Western Conference.
"That definitely wasn't a good effort," forward Jay McClement said. "It's disappointing after we made strides and we played well two nights ago" in a 6-4 win over Vancouver. "I think it's unacceptable," he continued.
Already minus five regulars, St. Louis played without centre Alex Steen, who was nursing a sore foot.
Edmonton, which finished 3-2 on its five-game homestand, begins a three-game trip in Washington on Tuesday.
With files from the Canadian Press