Oilers in Perfect Storm

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:57 AM ET

The anchors turned into life preservers in the nick of time last night when the dead weight that had been sinking Edmonton's ship this year bailed them out when they absolutely needed it most.

The struggling offence scored big goals.

They're hopeless power play got a goal.

Seriously, they scored on the power play.

They beat Minnesota for the first time in seven tries.

They scored on the power play against Minnesota, for heaven sakes.

VETERANS OFF HOT SEAT

And their much-maligned veterans led the way, with Shawn Horcoff notching two goals and two assists, Raffi Torres getting a career high three assists and Ales Hemsky scoring twice in a thrilling, and rather ironic, 5-4 shootout win over the Wild.

"Our veterans stepped up tonight and showed why they're such good players in this league," said rookie Sam Gagner.

"The Hemsky, Horcoff and Torres line was unbelievable for us. They were really the sparkplug, the reason we won tonight."

That they ended their drought against Minnesota makes it all the more unexpected.

Normally, a date with the Wild leaves the scoreless Oilers with goose-egg all over their faces, but after three straight shutout losses dating back to last year, they finally found some twine.

"We felt like outside of the Calgary game we've been playing some pretty good hockey, we just haven't been getting a lot of bounces around the net, and tonight we did," said Horcoff, who was fantastic in the wake of criticism about the veterans not pulling their weight.

"It's was nice to have a night like this because our team needed it."

It wasn't easy. Edmonton had a 2-0 lead in the first period, which could have easily been 3-0 if they had scored on a two-man advantage that lasted nearly two minutes. They were up 3-1 in the second and had the lead at home in the third. And blew them all.

"It seems like everything that goes toward our net ends up in our net," said head coach Craig MacTavish, whose club still has work to do in its own end. "We have to change the way we're defending."

They gave Minnesota a point, but they averted disaster with the shootout victory, capped by goals from Gagner and Hemsky.

Hemsky actually fanned on his winner, but goalie Josh Harding bought the attempted deke and the puck trickled through his five hole.

It as that kind of night. They even neutralized Derek Boogaard, scoring once with him on the ice and once with him in the penalty box. And they beat a team in their own division for the first time in six tries.

"We were right there last game, we just weren't finishing," Torres said of his line, which collected nine points. "Coming into tonight we knew something was going to happen. A couple of great goals by those guys, a goal on the power play. That's what we needed."

"We showed a lot of character as a team," added Gagner.

"We battled back. This is a big win for the team."

Gagner's knees had to be knocking on his first NHL shootout attempt, with his mom in the crowd and so much on the line, but it didn't show. He scored on a beautiful deke to set the stage for Hemsky's winner.

"I just wanted to get him moving, shake a couple of times and see what opened up," he said. "I was able to go to my forehand and had lots to shoot at."

Late hits ...

Ladislav Smid, in his first game up from the minors, had an assist and was plus-2 in his first 6:18 of ice time ... Minnesota's Kim Johnsson didn't have a great night: He knocked one into his own not, got undressed on the Hemsky goal and took a penalty in the late stages that gave Edmonton a four-on-three power play.


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