SUN Hockey Pool

Fast & furious first

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:59 AM ET

Something had to give.

The Dallas Stars, embarrassed by the whole Sean Avery controversy, were determined to show everyone how much better they could be without him, and the Oilers, outscored 23-11 in the opening period this year, were determined not to have another sloppy first.

DIDN'T LAST

The war of wills didn't last long.

Edmonton got off to a rare quick start, followed by a rare first-intermission lead, then capped it off with a rare win on home ice, defeating the Stars 5-2 last night at Rexall Place.

"A game at home like this is important for the fans," said defenceman Lubomir Visnovsky, who had a goal, an assist, was plus two and played 20:24 in the decision.

"We need more games like this. It was frustrating to play a lot of good games on the road. We needed a nice game for the fans and we needed two points at home."

They got both, thanks to strong work from everyone, most notably Visnovsky, Ales Hemsky, Dustin Penner, Shawn Horcoff and Andrew Cogliano, who all had multiple point nights.

The Oilers also got strong contributions from both of their new players. Rookie Rob Schremp registered an assist and played almost 15 minutes and goalie Mathieu Garon, making his first start since Nov. 6, was solid in goal.

"It felt good, but it felt like I didn't play for a month," said Garon, who stopped 23 of 25 shots.

"It was good to get a good start tonight with the lead early in the game and not have to come back."

Instead of having to dig their way out of an early hole, Edmonton spent the first period throwing dirt on the Stars. Horcoff scored 1:11 in, Visnovsky scored with 11.1 seconds left and Penner assisted on both, giving him six points in six games since returning from two nights in the press box.

Edmonton led at the first intermission for just the sixth time in 24 games.

Marc Pouliot's goal to make 3-0 early in the second period came on a nice feed from Schremp, who collected his first NHL point on the play.

"It felt pretty good," said Pouliot, who collected his second of the season and first since Nov. 18. "It's been a while since I scored."

Shremp was feeling pretty good about it, too.

"It was pretty exciting to see the puck go over the line and get my first point," he said. "Pouliot got me the puck, which was pretty nice of him. Everyone asked me if I was nervous about putting up points. To see that first one go in was pretty big relief."

FACED LONG ODDS

Garon, having been iced by the coaching staff for three days short of an entire month, faced long odds in his return.

He has a lot of catching up to do given all the time he's wasted and rust he's accumulated since Nov. 6 - it's basically like he has to start the preseason all over again - but he looked solid yesterday.

"I felt better as it went on, but it's going to take a couple of games to start feeling great," said Garon. "I just wanted to keep it simple. Sometimes you want to do too much when you come back after a long time. but the way the guys played in front of me was awesome. Defensively we had a great night tonight. It's great to be in front of these guys."

Mike Modano made it interesting in the third, finally getting Dallas on the board at 1:07. He had all 16,839 sets of palms at Rexall sweating when he made it 3-2 at 18:40, but Edmonton held the fort, finally sealing it on Hemsky's empty-netter and an Andrew Cogliano goal at 19:47.

The win, their first win on home ice in six tries, evened the Oilers' record at 11-11-2.


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