Oilers warm up in Florida

The Oilers celebrate Shawn Horcoff's opening goal against Panthers goalie Tomas Vokoun last night....

The Oilers celebrate Shawn Horcoff's opening goal against Panthers goalie Tomas Vokoun last night. (QMI AGENCY/Rhona Wise)

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:18 AM ET

SUNRISE, Fla. -- The Florida Panthers got the first laugh, proudly announcing on their giant scoreboard that the temperature here is a balmy 24 C while the poor suckers in Edmonton are frozen under at -27 C.

Hardy har har. Nothing's funnier than a 51 degree difference in temperature.

But Edmonton laughed last as the Oilers warmed the hearts of their frigid fan base with a 3-2 victory.

"These are big wins for us, especially at this stage of the season," said centre Shawn Horcoff, who opened the scoring for Edmonton and then closed it with the shootout winner.

"We feel like we're playing pretty well right now. We just have to string some more games together and put ourselves right back in the playoff picture."

This helps. And so have Horcoff's hands. He also potted the shootout winner in Dallas last game.

"I've always felt good in shootouts, you just have to wait for your opportunity and then make the most of it when you get in," said Horcoff, who wasn't in head coach Pat Quinn's rotation earlier in the season.

"It feels good to chip in."

While the Panthers look pretty bad on paper, one win in their last nine games, they didn't look like doormats last night. They pressed the Oilers with 35 shots and led 2-1 in the third on a pair of goals from Dominic Moore.

But, like they did in Dallas, the Oilers fought back to tie it, then won it in penalty shots.

"Instead of being the team that bends a little bit in the third period and gives up points, we found a way to get points," said Quinn, whose club has now won three in a row, equalling its longest win streak of the season. "We hope that's a trend that continues for sure."

Edmonton's tying goal came 4:33 into the third when Dustin Penner deflected Lubomir Visnovsky's low point shot past Tomas Vokoun. Visnovsky's two assist night extends his point streak to three games and gives him four in the last three.

"Whenever anybody gets a couple of points they feel better with the confidence," said Visnovsky, whose stock has gone up dramatically in the last couple of weeks.

"I'm playing good with Ladi (Ladislav Smid). I feel much better with him because I know what he does and he knows what I do. It's good for us."

And Smid, who just snapped his 151-game scoring drought, is obviously passing on some offensive tips..

"Lubi is always the last guy on the ice who knows that we scored," said Smid. "Everybody is celebrating, arms in the air and he's like 'What happened? Did we score? Who got it.' "

Jeff Deslauriers posted his third win in a row, stopping 93 of 98 shots in the process, not counting the shootouts.

"Every team is the same, your best player needs to be your goaltender," said Horcoff. "He's been playing fantastic. You can see his confidence starting to grow."

Everyone's is as they roll into Tampa, another beatable foe, looking to make it four straight.

"It's no different than when things are going the other way," said Horcoff.

"When you're playing good but pucks aren't going in and you're losing it's frustrating. But when you're playing good and getting some bounces it's nice. You have to ride those highs."

LATE HITS ...

Defenceman Denis Grebeshkov skated with the team yesterday and could be ready by tomorrow or Friday. He just has to get his lungs back.

"It's amazing how far you fall behind," he said.

"I was riding the bike before but the ice is so much different."

ROBERT.TYCHKOWSKI@SUNMEDIA.CA


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