SUN Hockey Pool

Scrappy spirit in St. Louis

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:04 AM ET

ST. LOUIS -- Wow, somebody should punch Shawn Horcoff in the mouth at the start of every game.

If a few shots in the chops like the ones he took from David Backes ignites in Horcoff the kind of fire that burned through St. Louis last night, then the Oilers should invite the NHL to swing away.

Heck, you might even see the coaching staff rolling up their sleeves now and then.

Horcoff, in his best game of the season, got up off the canvas after getting separated from the herd and worked over pretty good by Backes in the first period to score a goal and add two assists in Edmonton's four-goal comeback over the Blues.

"It sure got him going," head coach Craig MacTavish said after the 4-2 decision.

"Horc's not known to be a fighter. (Backes) got him going. He played his best game of the year by a long shot. He was good in all the areas of the game where Shawn Horcoff is good."

Some guys might have shied away after getting the worst of it from a six-foot-three, 220-pounder, but Horcoff, who hadn't been in a fight in three years, came back hard.

He had 18 of Edmonton's 28 faceoff wins, including the one that set up Sheldon Souray's goal, battled in the slot to set up Dustin Penner's goal and buried a one-timer of his own to complete the first Gordie Howe hat-trick of his career.

"I felt good the last six, seven games," said Horcoff. "Like I'm getting back to my old self. It's nice to see the offence coming."

With the score tied 2-2 after 40, Edmonton's first line put it away for good before the third period was three minutes old -- Penner from Horcoff at 20 seconds, and Horcoff from Penner at 2:59.

"I think it was a great show of the team's character," said Horcoff. "We've been working hard the last four or five games and haven't been getting any results, but that's always the way it is at the end of slumps, you're losing games you should be winning."

It looked like this one was headed straight for the loss column early. By the time the game was 7:56 old, Horcoff had been beaten up and the Blues were up 2-0. So much for the quick start.

"It definitely wasn't the start we wanted," said Penner, who has two goals and two assists in the four games since coming back from a healthy scratch.

"That's when your conscience weighs in a bit and you're thinking 'Not again.' But having a goalie (Dwayne Roloson) back there making the big saves kept us alive. He believes in this group, he's backing us up out there and we came through for him with four unanswered goals."

Roloson, who only found out he was starting a few hours before the game -- because Mathieu Garon came down with the flu -- was huge.

"We carried over a bit of negative energy from the last couple of games," said Roloson.

"But between the first and second we said, 'Hey let's just take a breath here and figure out what we're doing.' "

Edmonton scored two straight in the second period to tie it -- a great pass from Robert Nilsson to Andrew Cogliano at 15:13 and a power-play point shot from Souray at 18:30. The two goals early in the third gave the Oilers four in 7:56.

"Good gritty comeback," said MacTavish. "It's not the way we drew it up to start, but we battled back hard and paid a bigger price than what we had in some of the previous games."

Battling harder was the plan going in.

"The overall focus of the team is a lot different," said Penner. "We had a some good meetings in the last 48 hours ... a bit of soul searching."

They take on the struggling Dallas Stars today (4 p.m. SportsNet).


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