COLUMBUS -- One look at the 15-foot-high likenesses of Rick Nash and Rostislav Klesla over the entrance to Nationwide Arena tells you how big a loss they are to the Columbus Blue Jackets.
With Nash, the Blue Jackets' best player, out a month with a sprained left knee and Klesla, their promising young defenceman, out six weeks with a broken hand, Gerard Gallant's team had two gaping holes to fill when the puck dropped against the Edmonton Oilers last night.
The Oilers, by comparison, arrived on the Jackets' doorstep with a two-game losing streak on the go but relatively a picture of health with Michael Peca, Marty Reasoner and Marc-Andre Bergeron back from injuries.
The story again, though, was Jussi Markkanen, who showed up for his 13th straight start and made 29 saves in a 3-1 victory for the Oilers on a night where the Jackets deserved better - even without their marquee men.
Right now, that's really big.
"Jussi's been playing solid for us. He's kept us in games," said Fernando Pisani, who notched the winner 7:36 into the third period. "We didn't get the start we wanted, but he played really well. He's a key for us to win games and he was great tonight."
Another dandy display by Markkanen was enough to make Pisani's third goal of the season stand up as the winner before Radek Dvorak added an empty-netter.
"We got away with a kind of slow start," offered Markkanen, making a pitch for team guy of the year with that understatement. "After the first period, we came on better for the second and especially for the third."
The Oilers escaped the first period in a 1-1 tie only because Jason Smith blew a slapper by Marc Denis from the top of the circles with his team's first shot and because Markkanen was at his stingy best.
Thanks in large part to refs Marc Joannette and Mick McGeough, who only had eyes for the visitors early - Columbus had four power plays to the Oilers' none, zip, zero, in the first period - the undermanned Blue Jackets held a 13-2 margin in shots, but only Todd Marchant, who banged his own rebound past Markkanen, found twine.
"We haven't talked about it a lot," Gallant said of his injury woes.
"I don't have to go in and tell everybody Nash is our best player. They know we have to work hard and compete hard to give ourselves a chance."
That wasn't a problem in this one. Like they had in the first period, the Jackets took the play to the Oilers in the second as well, although not nearly to the same extent, but Markkanen and Denis yielded nothing.
That set the table for Pisani, who busted to the Columbus net and re-directed Shawn Horcoff's pass out of the corner behind Denis.
Just like that, a night that began looking like a third straight defeat ended with the Oilers jumping a charter for Chicago with a 3-2-0 mark on this trip.
"That's a game where we didn't play very well but won the hockey game," said coach Craig MacTavish. "We had a hard time generating stuff through the first couple periods.
"Jussi held up really well ... it was pretty flawless by the goaltender."
AROUND THE RINK ... Ty Conklin, working out in Edmonton since returning from Hamilton with a groin injury, has been placed on injured reserve retroactive to last Thursday ... Marc-Andre Bergeron took Conklin's spot on the roster after being activated from IR ... centre Krys Kolanos, claimed off waivers from Phoenix by the Oilers yesterday, will meet the team in Chicago today ... Georges Laraque sat this one out with a swollen thumb on his left hand, the result of his fight with Darcy Hordichuk in Nashville ... the two shots in the first period tied the season-low set in the opening period of the 4-0 stinker in Dallas Monday.