SUN Hockey Pool

Gorilla warfare

TERRY JONES -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:18 AM ET

A win in regulation!

Let the bells ring out and the banners fly!

Feast your eyes on it! It's true! It's true!

An actual, certified, official, fully accredited Edmonton Oilers victory in the prescribed and traditional 60 minutes of regulation time!

For the first time since Dec. 2, the hometown team won one without overtime or a shootout.

'NOT A GOOD SIGN'

"It's not a good sign when you can't remember the last one you won in regulation," said coach Craig MacTavish.

"It's a monkey off our back," he said.

More like an ape.

It was only the eighth time in their last 64 games the Oilers have managed to advance two points in the standings within three 20-minute periods.

"I don't think about those stats. I think we're one-for-one," said captain Ethan Moreau, who personally missed 113 consecutive games in there and thus may be excused.

But if you think eight regulation-time wins in 64 games -- almost an entire regular season -- it's a sad-sack stat, going back to the old days of wins, losses and ties.

Their record this year would be 7-21-16.

Include the last 20 games last year and it would be 8-39-17.

A nattering nabob of negativism would cynically point out that this 4-0 regulation win was against the New York Islanders, an Eastern Conference team.

The regulation wins you need are the ones against Western Conference teams, where the opposition inot taking a point away means something.

But at this point of proceedings, that's nit-picking.

This team is two wins away from becoming the greatest shootout team in NHL history with their record of 11-2 so far this season, but seldom does a team come along which needs regulation time success like these Oilers do right now.

"We needed a game like that, to get a lead and hold onto it," said Moreau.

"We need more games like that if we're going to make the playoffs," said Shawn Horcoff, who scored his 100th goal as an Oiler on a night when linemate Ales Hemsky played like a legitimate superstar.

"You want to talk about a perfect time about putting a streak together.

"Somebody is going to do it and the team that does it is going to make the playoffs," said Horcoff of the squads currently out of a playoff position.

SPECIAL

"It sets us up to do something special in the last three games of this homestand," he added of Mathieu Garon's third, fourth and fifth games of being the Oilers' official starting netminder with two wins, including a shutout and two goals against in 66 shots, plus three more in the shootout.

"It was great to see the jump our guys had on offence. Our guys were flying.

"It's nice to see that," said the goaltender.

Steve Staios said this is a team in transition which needs to savor some success like this to get things going with each other.

"We're building here and this was a good step. It gives everybody an idea of how we have to play.

"We've gone to overtime and shootouts a lot and you can't knock our success there. But we definitely have to take the next step as a team.

FINE LINE

"Winning shootouts is great, but when you're getting wins that way, you're walking a fine line.

"It's nice to play one like that when you know that a mistake isn't going to lose the game for you."

"In this one we were forechecking and creating off the rush and we're physical like we have to be at home."

But nobody was happier than the head coach.

"From a coaches perspective it's just what the doctor ordered," said MacTavish.

"It's nice to win with a score like that so we could relax a bit and play with more confidence with the puck. That's our first game in a while where we could relax."

It also gives this team a chance to build a winning streak -- which they absolutely have to do on this homestand and in these last 10 games before the All-Star Break.

"We know we have to build a streak here," he said.

"When you're winning and guys are scoring and the game is opening up a bit, you can get something going to take into the next game."

That would beThursday.

Against Wayne Gretzky's suddenly hot four-wins-in-a-row Phoenix Coyotes.


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