SUN Hockey Pool

Grinders save the day

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:51 AM ET

Leave it to the plumbers to fix a major leak.

On a night when most of the Edmonton Oilers were drowning in disinterest and lethargy, and in very real danger of being routed at home by the worst team in the NHL, the fourth line arrived just in time to save the day.

Zack Stortini, Jason Strudwick and Kyle Brodziak were Edmonton’s first three stars Monday night, scoring twice in the second period to bail out their teammates in a scarier-than-it-should-have-been 3-2 comeback win over the 30th place New York Islanders.

“Not a lot of times you can really say the fourth line was the difference, but I thought tonight we did a good job of changing the momentum,” said Brodziak, who scored a goal and went 80% in the faceoff circle. “We had a horrible first period and everybody knew it. We wanted to come out and do anything we could to change the momentum and get energy for our team. Fortunately we got a couple of good bounces way.”

Both goals went in off skates, but good things happen when you go hard to the net.

“We don’t score a lot of goals by actually making passes,” joked Strudwick, whose first of the season was actually his first in almost 14 months. “It was one of those nights where things were just going our line’s way. We’re nothing special, we just try to work hard and create chaos. Sometimes it results in the odd goal for us. It was a pretty fun night.”

Not at first. Just days after losing at home to the lowly Ottawa Senators, the Oilers were down 2-0 after 20 minutes to the even lowlier Islanders.

“They put a lot of pressure on us and we didn’t handle the pressure very well,” said Oilers coach Craig MacTavish. “We got behind the eight-ball through forcing the puck up the middle under pressure.”

They gave up a Kyle Okposo goal at 4:02 and one to Blake Comeau just 2.5 seconds before the intermission. Suddenly the Isles, who came to town on a 12-game road losing streak, just like the Senators did when they beat Edmonton last week, were well in control.

Back from the brink

Then the fourth line brought them back from the brink, setting the stage for Andrew Cogliano’s winner at 9:58 of the third.

“A great line that was playing a real simple game and got a lot done,” said MacTavish. “That’s a good lesson for everyone – it doesn’t have to be pretty all the time.”

And it wasn’t. Brodziak’s centring pass hit Brendan Witt’s skate and went in.

“It was a hard work, simple shift,” said Stortini, who had an assist and finished plus 2. “We play our game, get pucks in deep, bang and crash. I don’t think it’s a big secret. We keep things simple out there, play hard and support one another.”

The goal was originally credited to Strudwick, which would have been his first since Nov. 17, 2007, but they changed it to Brodziak.

“I felt pretty bad for him after that,” grinned Brodziak. “It was good for him to get his first one as an Oiler the next shift.”

Three minutes later Strudwick was credited with another one, and after a lengthy video review to determine that he didn’t intentionally kick it in, got to keep it.

“I didn’t feel like I kicked it in,” he said. “I was just driving the net and it went off my foot. It happened so quick ... I’m not that good of a soccer player.”

There were a few nervous moments waiting to see if he’d have two goals taken away in three minutes, after not scoring in over a year.

“That would have been a bit much to take,” he said, adding he loves the chemistry he has with his linemates. “I like playing with Zack and Brodie, we have a good time out there and I think it shows on the ice.”

It does.

“They typify what a fourth line should be,” said MacTavish. “They’ve given us a great lift.”

robert.tychkowski@sunmedia.ca


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