SUN Hockey Pool

Oilers take care of business

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:19 AM ET

File this one under Taking Care of Business.

No disrespect to the Tampa Bay Lightning, they work hard and they have some dangerous players and everything, but they've been doormats all season long.

So when the third-worst team in the NHL comes into your building at the start of the stretch driver, and you need a win to stay in the playoff race, you get it.

And the Oilers got it.

It wasn't easy, no victory in the NHL ever is, but they jumped out to a pair of two-goal leads, 2-0 and 4-2, and then slid in an empty-netter to seal a 5-3 decision at Rexall Place.

The win snaps Edmonton's three-game losing streak and keeps them right in the hunt in the ever-tightening Western Conference playoff race with a 30-25-5 record and 65 points.

This was no automatic, given that the Oilers have already lost a couple of these already this year, most notably to the hopeless Ottawa Senators, but it was crucial, given wins by Anaheim, Nashville, Los Angeles and a shootout single for Minnesota.

Erik Cole got Edmonton rolling, taking an errant pass in the Oilers zone, racing the length of the ice and putting one in the far corner. He blew by Marek Malik like another 26, Todd Marchant, breezed past Grant Ledyard in Game 7 of the 1997 playoff series against Dallas.

Jason Strudwick made it 2-0 on a somewhat less spectacular goal, a seeing-eye-point shot that eluded the traffic in front of Karri Ramo and came to rest in the back of the net.

It's the start Edmonton wanted, but they let the Bolts back in the second.

Cory Murphy made it 2-1 on a power play goal at 2:30 and 10 minutes later, Cole tried a cute drop pass at the Tampa blueline that resulted in a Steve Stamkos breakaway goal, a beauty that he ripped glove side high on Dwayne Roloson.

The Ethan Moreau, Andrew Cogliano, Zack Stortini line saved the day, though, scoring twice to restore the breathing room.

A minute after Tampa tied it, Cogliano won an offensive zone faceoff and Sheldon Souray scored on the ensuing point shot to make it 3-2 Oilers at the intermission.

Cogliano made it 4-2 just 2:20 into the third period after some hard work in the crease by Stortini. It kept the puck alive for Cogliano, who scored from the doorstep for his first goal in six games, and second in 22.

That should have been it, but it wasn't.

The Lightning made it 4-3 with 6:14 to go on Murphy's second of the game. It came from nothing more than hard work in front of the net. All three Tampa forwards were in there battling and it paid off.

Souray's empty netter in the final seconds clinched it.

FIGHT NIGHT

Steve MacIntyre and David Koci had a dandy of a scrap in the first period, with the 6-foot-5, 250-pound MacIntyre taking the early going and the 6-foot-6, 226 pound Koci coming back at the end.

QUICK RECOVERY

Denis Grebeshkov is coming back a lot sooner than originally anticipated. The Oilers didn't expect to see him back till late March, but he's already up and practising and could be in the lineup as soon as Saturday.

"He's at that level now that he's almost ready to start practising," said trainer Ken Lowe. "A day or two. He looks pretty good but you get Steve Serdachny, somebody who's a skating instructor, watches him and he says there's still a few things he still has problems doing. I'm hoping by Saturday he'll be ready to go."


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