SUN Hockey Pool

Hawks clocked by Oilers

Chicago Blackhawks' Kyle Calder (right) is about to let a shot go as he finds most angles covered...

Chicago Blackhawks' Kyle Calder (right) is about to let a shot go as he finds most angles covered by the Edmonton Oilers' Ty Conklin during action at Rexall Place Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2006. (Edmonton Sun/Jason Franson)

ROBIN BROWNLEE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:45 AM ET

They're exactly halfway through their schedule and exactly halfway to their first 100-point season since 1986-87, when Wayne Gretzky owned this town and sipped champagne from the Stanley Cup.

The Edmonton Oilers still have a very long way to go to approach glory days gone by, but they didn't have the slightest trouble hitting the midway mark of this campaign with considerable aplomb in sending the sad-sack Chicago Blackhawks to their eighth straight defeat with a 5-0 spanking last night at Rexall Place.

THREE GOALS IN SIX MINUTES

After a four-game slip in which they'd won just once, the Oilers waltzed to their 23rd win with three goals in span of six minutes in the second period - including two by Fernando Pisani - and a 23-save outing by Ty Conklin, who made Shawn Horcoff's 1-0 goal stand up with his second career shutout.

The century mark is very much in reach.

"This was a big game for us," said Horcoff. "Teams on the end of losing streaks like that are usually playing games they should be winning. We wanted to make sure we had a good effort from start to finish."

Beaten twice by the Blackhawks, the Oilers left this one in doubt only until Pisani potted a pair and Ryan Smyth got the other to make it 4-0 on the way to improving to 23-14-4 in Western Conference standings.

"It's just what the doctor ordered for us," coach Craig MacTavish said. "We played the game the right way.

"We're getting the offence, but the teams that are going to have success in the post-season are teams that are going to play good defence. The one thing we haven't done to this point this year is prove we can win a 1-0 game when we have to.

"If we can add that element of good responsible defence and be a team that can win a real low-scoring game, we'll really be excited about the prospects for the second half."

With the Oilers up on Horcoff's goalmouth gimme on a brilliant move by Ales Hemsky in the first period - Hemsky hesitated until Anton Babchuk took himself out of the play and then found Horcoff on Craig Anderson's doorstep - Pisani got busy.

Pisani notched his first 5:42 into the second period in tight on Anderson on a sweet feed from behind the net by Ethan Moreau, then made it 3-0 on a one-timer in the high slot for this third two-goal game of the season.

"We got off to a good start and we were solid all over the ice," said Conklin, deflecting credit to his teammates. "It's something everybody works for, not just the goalies. I saw a determined effort.

"It wasn't an overly difficult game, but even in those kind of games you want to be rock-solid. I felt pretty good."

When Smyth completed the six-minute onslaught on the power play, Chicago's eighth straight loss and the Oilers 50th point was as good as in the books. The only question was whether the much-maligned Conklin could put the finishing touches on his first shutout since Nov. 13, 2003.

RIDICULOUSLY GOOD

Conklin's answer was emphatic - a glove save on Duncan Keith that was ridiculously good to preserve the whitewash.

"We're all really happy for him," Steve Staios said of Conklin.

"Everybody has their struggles. He's been a great teammate throughout it and he's worked really hard, so he deserved the game tonight."

GREENE GOES: Rookie defenceman Matt Greene dropped the gloves in just his second NHL game when he came to blows with Chicago captain Todd Simpson 8:50 into the first period.

Simpson came looking for Greene after the big kid knocked him on his backside with a clean hit in the Oilers end.

AROUND THE RINK: Jani Rita, a scratch in 19 of the previous 22 games, capped a solid effort with the 5-0 goal ... Horcoff and Smyth extended their points-streaks to four games on the winner.


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