DETROIT — The best way to start the day is with a good breakfast, but the egg was on Edmonton’s face, not their plate, when they woke up Thursday morning to find themselves dead last in the Western Conference standings.
After all that’s gone wrong this season they desperately needed a break or two — ones that didn’t involve crutches — but all that the hockey gods have given them this year are a few cases of swine flu.
So they had no choice but to roll up their sleeves and make their own luck Thursday night at Joe Louis Arena.
“It might be our best road game of the year,” said head coach Pat Quinn, after some hard work and a flukey goal or two snapped Edmonton’s three-game losing streak with a 4-1 win and slipped them past Minnesota into 14th place.
“It’s a good step for us. We came into a tough building and won a game. Hopefully we’ll continue to do the good things that we did tonight.”
The confidence definitely needed a boost after the last month and the decision over Detroit, a team that’s as banged up as the Oilers are, definitely gets the five-game road trip started on the right skate.
“Hockey is not rocket science; when you lose games you feel bad, when you win games you feel good,” said Patrick O’Sullivan, who scored twice in the second period, three minutes apart, to turn a 2-1 game into two points.
“So to win a game when we needed it desperately is a good feeling. And we won the right way. We played the whole 60 minutes the way we wanted to. It’s nice to finally do that and get a win.”
Robert Nilsson made good on his promise to be more impactful, scoring a goal of the week candidate to make it 2-0. He turned both Jonathan Ericsson and goalie Jimmy Howard inside out at 17:09 and the Oilers were cooking.
“That’s not the area that I ever questioned with him,” said Quinn. “When he gets in that area he has some skill, no question in my mind about that. The trick is getting into those spots and contributing on the defensive side as well, which he did.”
Ryan Stone also made his presence felt early, after missing six weeks with a knee injury. He was on the ice for the first two Edmonton goals, assisting on the second, and was plus two after 20 minutes work.
“Knee didn’t bother me at all,” he grinned. “Legs were good, lungs were good. I kept it simple and we got a lucky bounce on that first one, but it takes the jitters out to have a good first period like that.”
Jeff Deslauriers, pulled after four goals on 11 shots in Vancouver, bounced back strongly, stopping 27 of 28 shots in the win.
“I’ve been pulled before (in the AHL), I knew could bounce back,” he said “But this is the Detroit Red Wings we’re talking about, a very offensive team. But we played a heck of a game.”
They’ll need a few more of these to climb back into striking distance, but one step at a time.
Next stop, Saturday in Dallas.
“This trip is probably going to be a difference maker in our season, given the situation we’re in,” said O’Sullivan. “And all of a sudden it doesn’t look so bad. We’re two games below .500, coming off a good game and playing the best team in the league for the last 10 years.”
Colin McDonald was sent back to Springfield after the game.