For a while there, as the losses piled up and the team sank in the standings, it was difficult to remember which landmark the Oilers were closing in on: winning their 1,000th game, or 1,000 games since their last win.
It must have seemed like both last night as the desperate Oilers, with two wins in their previous 10 games and none in the last four, finally reached their milestone with a 4-1 decision over the Florida Panthers.
"We needed that win - a lot of bad things were going our way and we needed to turn it around, soon," said Fernando Pisani. "Tonight we did a lot of things well."
They didn't reach one grand in particulalry grand fashion - scoring on two flukes and a dreadful giveaway - but it's as big a win as any they've had in a long time (not that it's a wide catalogue to choose from).
"The bottom line tonight for us was we needed a complete effort from everybody in all our areas, all the facets of the game," said head coach Craig MacTavish, holding the historic puck. "Right from the goalie on out we had a good, complete game, and that's what it takes to win at this level."
"It was kind of like a road game, one of those good road wins," added Jarret Stoll. "We were very good in every zone."
Having fallen from third in the Western Conference to 10th, the Oilers were officially desperate for some points. But it wasn't easy against a Panthers team that had been playing pretty well lately (5-1-1) in their previous seven, with Ed Belfour coming out of the blocks extremely well, snuffing the Oilers at every turn.
"He played well right off the bat," said Pisani. "We had some good cracks, Horc had a couple of good chances in front and he made some good saves. We just kept playing hard and the next thing you know we got one, and two..."
They weren't things of beauty. Raffi Torres opened the scoring 13:25 into the second period when his centering pass from a near impossible angle to the left of Belfour somehow found its way home. And Pisani's third period goal was a virtual carbon copy, prompting familiar, derisive chants of "BEL-FOUR, BEL-FOUR."
It just shows the importance of putting the puck on net every chance you get.
'LOT OF GOOD THINGS'
"Two goals right there," said Stoll. "Sometimes those go in, like today, and sometimes there are rebounds or he covers the puck and you get an O-zone faceoff. There are a lot of good things that can come from just throwing it on net. They were good breaks, but they were also good decisions on Fernie's part and Raffi's part."
The 2-0 goal was much more aesthetically pleasing, with Ales Hemsky taking a long feed and, with Branislav Mezei draped all over him, beating Belfour with a world class deke. Ryan Smyth made it 4-1 when Mike Van Ryn turned the puck over deep in his own end. It was Smyth's fourth-straight game with at least a point since coming back from his broken thumb, as well as the eighth 20-goal season of his career.
LATE HITS: The Oilers became the 18th franchise in NHL history, and the third fastest behind Philly and Montreal, to reach 1,000, upping their record to 1,000-809-277-29.