SUN Hockey Pool

Hemsky slices 'n' dices

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:41 AM ET

PHILADELPHIA -- So who was that guy wearing the Ales Hemsky mask?

After going 18 games without a goal, a slump dating back to March of last season, Hemsky suddenly turned into Mario Lemieux last night, undressing Flyers all over the ice en route to two of the nicest highlight reel goals you'll see all year.

"It's nice to score finally, a couple of goals," said Hemsky, who laid the foundation for a wild 5-4 win over the Flyers.

"I felt great the last five games with the puck. I was making plays, so I knew if I stayed with it, it would come.

"That's how it works, you have to stick with it. You can't get mentally down. Especially if you're a skill guy - if you start being scared of making plays, that's when you make turnovers. You just have to keep going, keep the confidence high and the goals and points will come."

Hemsky blew around Philly's defence and stepped around a Martin Biron pokecheck to make it 2-1 Edmonton in the first, then danced through them again to make it 3-1 in the second. He added a second period assist for the three-point night.

"I'll take a couple of garbage goals, too," he said, "when it's not going for me."

With eight assists in his first 10 games, Hemsky hasn't been entirely unproductive, but he hasn't looked like that all season.

"He played unreal," said head coach Craig MacTavish. "I'm being master of the obvious again, but those are all-world goals.

"I thought he's played very well the last little while, four or five games in particular.

"He was close to a point a game, now he's at a point a game. I thought he played maybe his best game of the year Saturday against Carolina, until this one. He just made great decisions with the puck all game long."

It makes you wonder why we don't see more nights like this from the immensely talented forward, but MacTavish says it's tough to wheel and deal in the face of today's stifling defences.

"It's situational stuff, it's not as though you're not prepared to play," said the coach. "In today's era, you have to be prepared to play a game where you don't see any open ice. But when he gets it he can take advantage of it. You'd see that every night if we were in the mid '80s, but it's not the mid '80s anymore - checking is pretty tight."

It was an evening of slump-busting everywhere. Tom Gilbert, with one assist in his first 10 games, got three last night, Dustin Penner scored his first goal since potting two in the first game of the season and Erik Cole scored his first in two weeks.

The Oilers, who came into the game tied with Phoenix for the fewest goals in the NHL (a sickly 21 in 10 games), seemed to finally discover what those carbon-fibre things in their hands are used for.

"I think we had a bit of confidence after last game," said Gilbert.

"I think that was probably the big difference. We went out there trying to score goals, trying to be creative, and still play smart."

The Oilers improved to 2-1 on the trip and 6-4-1 on the season, as they roll into Columbus for the fourth game of the seven-game swing. And they wake up this morning in an entirely different head space than when they shuffled out of Nashville following their trip-opening loss to the Predators.

"We're in so much of a better state of mind than we were 23 hours ago," said MacTavish.

"It's such a tough league that if you lose your confidence a little bit you have a hard time winning. Every night is a battle."

Dwayne Roloson was very good again in goal. He came into the game with a 1.64 GAA and .950 save percentage, but just a 1-1-1 record thanks to a complete lack of run support. But he got it yesterday.

"We scored some nice goals, a lot of them were just guys driving to the net," said captain Ethan Moreau.

"It's stuff we've been doing now for a few games, but we got rewarded tonight."


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