SUN Hockey Pool

Oilers top line was just that

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:50 AM ET

Giving up four straight goals in just over 15 minutes should have amounted to a wholesale collapse.

And a three-goal lead should have been all the insurance any team coached by Ken Hitchcock would ever need.

But it wasn't.

Not after Dustin Penner and Edmonton's rebuilt first line turned last night's contest into a feeding frenzy, scoring five times to turn a 4-1 deficit into a wild 6-4 comeback victory that lifted the roof off of Rexall Place.

"It's tough to dream it up any better than that," said Penner, who had two goals, three assists, 11 shots and received a standing ovation for spearheading the assault. "To be down 4-1 and for the team to battle back, it feels as good as it's ever been here for me ... which, I guess, isn't saying much."

FOURTH IN SCORING

Penner's taken a lot of lumps in this town, but a clean slate and renewed vigour have him winning Edmontonians back with a vengeance. He's now fourth in NHL scoring with 14 points, behind Alex Ovechkin and Anze Kopitar (16) and Joe Thornton (15), and he's moving miles ahead of Craig MacTavish in the 'Who's Fault Was It' poll.

"It has to feel great for him," said Sam Gagner, who watched his linemate skate out to another ovation when the first star was announced. "I was standing in the hallway and there were chills going through my spine.

"The sky's the limit for him; he's going to keep pushing and we're going to keep helping him."

A line that Pat Quinn put together for the first time last night looked unstoppable against the bewildered Blue Jackets. In addition to Penner's five-point night, Ales Hemsky had five points (one goal and four assists) and Gagner had three.

Thirteen points for the trio, two for Edmonton in as dominant a night as any Oilers line has produced in a long while.

"We really clicked, that's what you call chemistry," said Penner. "It felt really good to be playing with guys like that. Hemmer got rid of the flu bug and just took off. Me and Gags played right along with him.

Penner couldn't do anything wrong, Hemsky was flying and Gagner fit like a glove.

"It was a lot of fun tonight," said Hemsky. "With Dustin, a lot of it is confidence. He's been playing great all season, it's nice that people are appreciating him."

It began early, when Gagner buried a pass from Penner to make it 1-0 just 58 seconds into the contest.

"When you get a goal in the first minute it really helps your confidence moving forward," said Gagner.

But Columbus, held shotless for the first nine minutes, slowly worked the momentum back in its favour and by the middle of the second period were up 4-1 on two goals from Huselius and singles from former Oilers Raffi Torres and Jason Chimera.

NO KO PUNCH

That's normally when the Oilers start looking for a soft spot on the canvas. But not this year.

Penner from Hemsky and Gagner made it 4-2. Hemsky from Visnovsky and Penner made it 4-3. Penner from Hemsky and Gagner made it 4-4 and Visnovsky from Penner and Hemsky made it 5-4 midway through the third.

It harkened back to a time when no lead was safe against an Oilers team.

"It was awesome," grinned Gagner. "We're having fun out there and we're making plays and we got rewarded with some goals."

And Penner got rewarded with a standing O in the third, as the building rose to its feet for last year's whipping boy.

"It's tough to describe, it felt really good," said Penner. "Like skyrockets in flight if you've seen Anchorman."

ROBERT.TYCHKOWSKI@SUNMEDIA.CA


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