Oilers hack and whack Bolts

Zack Stortini, left, Robert Nilsson and Tom Gilbert celebrate Nilsson’s goal against the Tampa Bay...

Zack Stortini, left, Robert Nilsson and Tom Gilbert celebrate Nilsson’s goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning during the first period last night. Edmonton’s fourth line was dynamite. (Steve Nesius/QMI AGENCY)

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 9:13 AM ET

TAMPA BAY -- It's hard to dangle when somebody is banging you over the head with a lunchpail.

Ask the Tampa Bay Lightning, who watched helplessly as all the high-end, high-priced talent they could throw at the Oilers last night was no match for Edmonton's blue-collar response.

The duo of Zack Stortini and Ryan Stone, with a little help from Robert Nilsson, combined for the winning goal, three fights, three assists and totally turned the momentum in a 3-2 victory over the star-studded hosts.

"They've been our best line two or three nights (on the trip)," said head coach Pat Quinn, who's dubbed the trio Hack, Smack and Whack, although nobody's sure who's who.

"They don't get the ice time, but when they're out there they're effective every shift. They were able to outplay the opposition regardless.

"For a long time it was against their fourth line, but after a while I was leaving them out against anybody."

It was showdogs versus mongrels and Edmonton's mutts lifted their legs on the likes of Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis, Steve Stamkos and Ryan Malone.

Stortini had a goal, an assist and two fights in the first two periods, Stone had a scrap and a helper and by the middle of the second frame Tampa's two best guys, Stamkos and Malone, had left the game with injuries and the Oilers grinders had turned the momentum in Edmonton's favour.

"There weren't a whole bunch of penalties, so we were able to get on a little bit of a roll and get into the game more," said Stone. "And when there were penalties, it was me and Storts taking them, which kind of got us in the game, as well. Storts played great. When he plays like that it gets the rest of us going."

They're going all, right.

"We're doing some good stuff," said Quinn, as the Oilers made it four in a row on the road trip, the last three of them by identical 3-2 scores, and can now run the table with a win tomorrow in St. Louis. "We probably lead the league in one-goal games right now and where we were not finding ways to win earlier, we're finding ways to win the game now. That's going to just make us better down the way. It's like playoff hockey every night."

In the playoffs, it's not always the glory boys who win you the games.

"You have to give all the credit to Storts' line, they got some timely goals for us," said Ethan Moreau. "That was the difference in the game."

So who's Hack, who's Smack and who's Whack?

"Some nights (Stortini) is all three, he just gives you what he's got every night," grinned Quinn. "He had a heck of a game. Stone is playing with a lot of intelligence away from the puck. Bobby is continuing to improve his play."

The Lightning, who've been in a bad slump lately, came out hard, just not hard enough to match what the Oilers offered up in return. They scored 68 seconds in, but Tom Gilbert tied it, Dustin Penner put the Oilers ahead 2-1 and at 11:07 of the second Stortini buried the game winner.

"That's the way I want to play the game, that's the way our whole line plays the game," said Stortini, who likes the chemistry he's developing with Stone. "We play a similar type of game. We keep it simple out there and we get pucks to the net, get in on the forecheck quickly and try to play a solid, all-around game."

They needed a trip like this, and they're getting it.

"A lot of great team wins," said Stortini. "And the trip's not over yet. We have to get ready for the next one now and hopefully get that one."

ROBERT.TYCHKOWSKI@SUNMEDIA.CA


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