Czech this out

TERRY JONES, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 1:20 PM ET

He came here with the reputation of being the league's greatest shootout guy. And last night he showed why.

And who knows. Last night Ales Kotalik may have saved the season in the process.

Kotalik tied the NHL record with his 10th game-winning shootout goal to give the Edmonton Oilers a 2-1 win over the charging St. Louis Blues. And it was sensational stuff.

Coach Craig MacTavish, who has one of the best shootout trios in the league with Sam Gagner, Robert Nilsson and Ales Hemsky, decided to go with newcomers Patrick O'Sullivan and Kotalik in addition to Gagner last night to settle the fourth game in a row in which the Oilers have gone past regulation time.

STOPPED EVERYTHING

Kotalik scored the only goal in the shootout as Dwayne Roloson stopped everything at the other end.

"He made no mistake," said coach Craig MacTavish of the Czech, who decided to go with his best move, forehand to backhand, to beat Chris Mason high and make it 19 for 36 career.

Only Slava Kozlov of Atlanta (22 for 37) and Jussi Jokinen of Carolina (21 for 39) have scored more.

But it's the 10 game winners which made MacTavish decide to bat him last after leading off with O'Sullivan and then going to Gagner.

"The stats seldom lie," said MacTavish. "Especially shootout stats."

There was a little feel from watching the player the Oilers picked up on the trade deadline but who hadn't produced a point. But MacTavish laughed about that.

"We've had other things taking up most of our practice time to be spending much time on the shootout. But I've seen him in the past."

Kotalik is now seven for 12 this year on the shootout and hasn't scored a bigger one. If the Oilers, who had lost three straight games in overtime, had lost this one, with five of their next six on the road, people would have left Rexall Place last night wondering if it was the end of the playoff race and the beginning of the death watch.

"Any way to help out the team," said Kotalik. "There's a lot on the line at this time of year. At this time of year everything is so tight.

"I just wanted to be sure I scored it to help get the two points. I'm very happy I put one away for the team today. I'm just thrilled and happy for all the guys.

"I had a feeling the goalie might go down," he said of Mason.

When it was suggested he went to his 'A' move, Kotalik took exception.

"I've scored quite a few shootout goals by shooting, too."

He paused a moment.

"I'd rather not talk about it. Everybody is scouting it now."

There's no story of a kid taking hundreds of shootouts as a kid on some outdoor rink somewhere.

"I feel good in those kind of situations. I don't know why. I didn't practice them as a kid more than any other kid at home or in Canada. I remember having one in a tournament once in the Czech Republic but I can't remember if I scored.

"It wasn't until I got to Buffalo and they started the shootouts in the NHL. I got to be real confident in the moves I try. I always felt good on those kinds of plays.

"But it's good to get this one. It's a new team. New people. And it's been a tough task for me. Hopefully I can go on and get more confident.

FOREVER

The shootout took forever to get going because of a debate about the Zamboni scrape.

The first one was seemed inadequate.

The second had Roloson going nuts and MacTavish trying to get a third scrape.

MacTavish was asked to comment on the Zamboni driver in the post-game media conference.

"The former Zamboni driver," quipped the coach.

"They cut the left side of the net real tight at their end," he said of the scrape coming right beside the post where, as it turned out, Kotalik scored.

"At the other end he cut it real wide.

"It reminded me of that Sport Select commercial at a drip just left of the post. You'd have to ask the Zamboni driver if he had a Sports Select ticket."


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