EDMONTON - They followed up a forgettable performance with an exceptional one.
And although it wasn’t enough to earn the Edmonton Oilers a victory Sunday in Anaheim, the line of Sam Gagner, Linus Omark and Magnus Paajarvi showed there was reason for optimism.
The trio combined for both goals in the 3-2 loss to the Ducks and finished a collective plus-10 on the night.
The previous evening, they were a combined minus-six in a 5-2 loss to the L.A. Kings.
“It’s a testament to those three young men, because they were really challenged,” said head coach Tom Renney. “They were able to step up and do a hell of a job.”
Paajarvi scored a goal and should have picked up an assist on Gagner’s marker, forcing the turnover inside the Ducks blueline that saw the puck end up on Omark’s stick.
It was arguably Paajarvi’s best game of the season, showcasing the talent that made him the 10th overall pick in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.
“He was outstanding,” Renney said. “That’s the speed he has to play with, he has to be a proactive player, you see the nature of which he approaches things, and it makes even Linus more effective when they play with that type of speed and attack.
“If Sam can distribute the puck the way he needs to in order to play to their strengths, that’s a good line.”
The trio complement each other well, despite their struggles in Los Angeles on Saturday.
With Taylor Hall being moved to centre between Dustin Penner and Ales Hemsky on the top line, Gagner moved down to play between the two Swedes.
“We felt like we needed to have a bounce back game,” Gagner said. “We didn’t think we got a lot accomplished in L.A. and we were on for a few goals against that cost our team. We thought (Sunday), that we did a good job of sustaining cycles and keeping the puck in their end.
“We made it difficult on them, and it’s definitely a good feeling to create offence like that.
“We have to continue to get pucks to the net and hopefully help our team win games.”
The two goals in 26 seconds in the second period helped the Oilers claw back into the contest.
Gagner scored when Omark made an outstanding cross-ice pass, allowing the centre to one-time a shot past Ducks goaltender Curtis McElhinney.
Earlier, Paajarvi buried a long rebound following a shot from Gagner.
“Linus has great skill,” Gagner said.
“It’s actually surprising how strong he is due to his size. That’s why we’ve been able to get good cycles and make plays. Magnus has great speed and great size and he backs a lot of defenders off of him, making room for both of us.
“We want to just continue to try to get better.
“We had our chances to score. The power play seems to be our downfall, but we have to continue to try and improve and (Sunday) night was another lesson.”
Heading into tonight’s game against the Minnesota Wild at Rexall Place, the three are expected to stay together.
“I feel great with both Gagner and Omark,” said Paajarvi.
“I love playing with Linus; he’s able to hold the puck, and then I just go to the free ice and he gives it to me. We play off each other well.
“And Gags can do everything well.
“I think we have the makings of a really good line.”