PITTSBURGH -- The kid was outstanding.
Not THAT Kid. The other kid.
On a night when the Edmonton Oilers were getting their first look at rookie sensation Sidney Crosby, rookie netminder Marc-Andre Fleury was sensational.
The 21-year-old would have stolen Pittsburgh a game if the rest of the team had bothered to follow his lead. Instead, Edmonton got a free pass, turned Fleury into a duck in a shooting gallery and snuck out with a 3-1 win in front of 14,905 at Mellon Arena.
"We took it to them. We obviously should have been up by more than one after two," said Shawn Horcoff, whose hat-trick won Edmonton its first game in Pittsburgh since 1992-93.
"But it's a great feeling. I haven't had a hat-trick since college. I've never had one as a pro. It's just a matter of being in the right spot. I had a lot of other chances, too, but he made some great saves."
A ton of them. This was waaaay closer than it should have been. The Oilers dominated the lethargic Pens, outshooting them 11-6 in the first and 13-5 in the second (Pittsburgh didn't get its 10 shots on net until the 34-minute mark), but could manage only a 1-0 lead after 40 minutes. It took a shorthanded three-on-one break at 16:12 of the first to break Fleury's shutout.
"Marc's been great for us, thank God," seethed Pens head coach Michel Therrien.
Oilers coach Craig MacTavish, unable to take a deep breath until the final minute of the third period, was in a much better mood.
"There are no easy wins at this level, for us, anyway," he said. "It seems like we have to outplay a team considerably (to win a close game), but we were able to do it tonight, played pretty much flawlessly."
It was still anyone's game in the third. Horcoff scored his 13th of the season 44 seconds into the period, but Ryan Malone staged some drama, beating Jussi Markkanen on a deflection with 10 minutes left. Horcoff's third of the night didn't clinch it until the final minute.
"We've been wanting to work on our game in tight situations like that because we're going to see more of that coming down the stretch," said Horcoff. "It would have been really disappointing to come out here and not get two points, especially lately, when we've had some good efforts and haven't been rewarded with a win."
MacTavish was glad to see Horcoff rewarded for his hustle.
"We haven't had one of these since Smytty won one 3-0 in Atlanta," he said. "Horc is deserving of some breaks, he hasn't had a lot of them. You're always happy for a guy who does it the right way and puts a workmanlike effort in each night."
Fleury knows it might not last, and that the Pens, already scheduled to lose $8 million, might not want to cough up another $2.5 million in bonus money if he stays in the NHL all season. So he's enjoying it while he can.
'OUT OF MY CONTROL'
"I don't know what's going to happen," he said. "I just go one game at a time and try to have fun when I'm here. They're giving me a chance to play, so I'm happy.
"The contract thing is out of my control. All I can do is go play hockey."
NO GO DEVO: The Oilers had Radek Dvorak pencilled in to play last night after 11 games on the shelf with an injured groin, but pulled him out at the last minute when he felt some tightness in the area. He reinjured it the last time he came back, after sitting out two starts, so they're not taking any chances. "We are really going to be cautious," said MacTavish. "If there's anything that will lead us to believe he's not mentally ready, that he's questioning it physically, we'll wait."
Dvorak has still been activated from IR, so Brad Winchester has been assigned to Hamilton to make room.
LATE HITS: Don Van Massenhoven officiated his first game since reconstructive facial surgery after being hit by a puck earlier in November.