SUN Hockey Pool

Hemsky goal rates with classic Oiler beauties

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 10:25 AM ET

There have been a great many big goals in Edmonton Oiler history. Gobs of gorgeous goals, too.

But the goal Ales Hemsky scored last night qualified in both categories.

It was the goal of the season and there's every chance it could turn out to be the biggest goal of the season.

"It was an incredible goal. A great, absolutely breathtaking goal. A huge goal. I think we'll realize the importance of that goal as the season wears on,'' said coach Craig MacTavish, trying to out-adjective his players who had first shot at the microphones and notebooks to describe Hemsky's work of art on deadline.

On a night when the Toronto Maple Leafs may have become the first Canadian team to effectively eliminate themselves from playoff contention, Hemsky's gorgeous goal with 67 seconds to play saved the Oilers from putting themselves on the same set of skids.

TURNED A LOSS INTO A WIN

Combined with Shawn Horcoff's goal two and a half minutes earlier it turned a 2-1 loss into a 3-2 win over the San Jose Sharks, the team which has been on a consistent run from well off the pace to sealing a playoff spot since the Joe Thornton trade.

The Oilers, clinging to the final playoff position in the Western Conference, moved six points ahead of the Sharks. San Jose has two games in hand.

On a bigger picture, it might even make a difference in getting the deal done with Phoenix to bring goaltender Curtis Joseph back to Edmonton to try get this team two rounds into the playoffs again. An Oilers' loss last night and a Phoenix win tonight against Detroit, and the Coyotes would be six points back of the Oilers and have a difficult time doing that trade deadline deal.

But on the surface, mostly it was creating some space between the Oilers and the teams trying to hunt down that final playoff position.

Hemsky was quite aware of what was involved.

"It's a big goal. It's a huge two points for us. There was a minute left. I thought I'd try something.''

Hemsky threw a deke on San Jose defenceman Josh Gorges, threading the puck between his legs. Cutting to the net, he took goaltender Vesa Toskala across the crease and backhanded it through the five-hole.

"He's been close on that move a number of times,'' said MacTavish.

"You make it one time in 50 chances,'' said Hemsky. "You make it, everybody says 'nice'. If you don't it's not so nice.''

The next wave of reporters upon him, Hemsky changed the quote.

"You make it one time in 25,'' he said. "If you make it, it looks good. If you don't it's a bad play.''

A third wave and Hemsky offered a third quote.

"You make it one time in 10. If you make it, it's great. If you don't, everybody say 'Shoot the puck!' ''

It was a game which didn't open up until Ryan Smyth, in the second period, successfully attempted a couple Hemsky-type moves from inside the blueline but couldn't finish.

"He can try,'' said Hemsky. "Why not?''

"I had it on a string like Hemmer,'' laughed Smyth.

"It was great to see Ales get that goal when he did. And, wow, what a goal. I don't know how he does it,'' Smyth added of the Czech who has scored several highlight goals in his total of 16 so far this season.

"One second it looked like he was going to get his head taken off, the next everybody is shaking their head,'' added Smyth.

Hemsky said the big thing with the goal was "I had speed and he was close to me,'' he said of Gorges.

He said the backhand move on Taskala was not planned. It was total instinct.

"I don't even think about it,'' said the Olympic bronze-medal winner from Torino 2006.

NO PROBLEM FOR HORCOFF

MacTavish said the effort to create Horcoff's game-equalling goal a minute after Thornton scored what he told reporters he figured would end up as the winning goal, will probably be lost in this game because of Hemsky's creation.

Horcoff has no problem with that.

"It was not only one of the prettiest goals you're ever going to see, it was one of the biggest,'' he said.

That made it unanimous.


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