SUN Hockey Pool

Oilers-Leafs tilt old-time fun

Oilers forwards Jordan Eberle (left), Taylor Hall (centre) and Sam Gagner celebrate a goal against...

Oilers forwards Jordan Eberle (left), Taylor Hall (centre) and Sam Gagner celebrate a goal against the Maple Leafs at Rexall Place in Edmonton, Alta., Feb. 15, 2012. (DAN RIEDLHUBER/Reuters)

TERRY JONES, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:46 AM ET

EDMONTON - You could hear the coaches.

“Guys, what the bleep are you doing?

“Look at the freaking crowd! These fans are having flipping fun!

“Stop that! Right now!

“Now get back to killing the game again, will ya? This is embarrassing.”

Well, maybe not in this one. But most other nights it does seem that way, doesn’t it?

In the end, when coach Tom Renney was asked if he was cognizant of the fact the fans left the building royally entertained despite the 4-3 overtime loss, he laughed, saying the choice of the word cognizant was particularly appropriate considering his concussed state.

“It was entertaining. It was a fun game to coach,” he conceded.

For a game between a team in 29th place and one on a four-game losing streak, outscored 10-1 in their previous two games and within a point of dropping out of the playoffs, there was no lack of energy in Rexall Place last night as almost as many fans showed up wearing Toronto Maple Leaf jerseys as Edmonton Oiler sweaters.

And both teams decided to play a run-and-gun, go-go game right from the git-go.

The Leafs and Oilers combined to score three goals in the first 2:32 of the game. Three goals on three consecutive shifts.

One of them was scored by Ben Eager, who proceeded to lay a licking on Mike Brown while Taylor Hall leveled Jake Gardiner and Magnus Paajarvi crashed the net and took two minutes for goaltender interference, a penalty to be applauded in his case.

While the scoring stopped until the third period, the back and forth action didn’t.

It was a game to take your grandson to: “Sonny boy, this is how it sort of was in the olden days.”

It had a little bit of everything and lots of most things.

Hall scored his 20th goal of the year for the second year of his career (he had 22 when he was injured and lost for the season last year).

“It was definitely fast-paced,” said Hall.

“They’re definitely a team with a lot of speed. We didn’t play a track-meet game, at least not after the first two goals. We played a good game. It wasn’t the start we wanted. But we fought back and we did tie it up and did everything humanly possible to get back. It was a pretty good game for 58 minutes. I think the fans can be pretty happy with that.”

Jordan Eberle’s 25th of the year, to tie it with 4:04 left in the third, was just a gorgeous goal, a perfect shot over the catching glove of James Reimer.

“It was a fun atmosphere,” he said. “With all the Toronto fans, we were getting cheered and we were getting booed. There was a lot of energy in the building. We were feeding off the fans, getting booed and getting cheered.

“Both teams were capable of turning on the speed. It was a fun game. When you get two teams like that, it’s definitely fun and you can play to your ability. But when you play a team like Detroit, you better be careful and chip the puck in.”

Renney said “they are passionate players who you have to let push the envelope a bit” on a night like this.

But it wasn’t just the two sophomores.

Ales Hemsky hit a crossbar and a post in one of his better games, a game in which he took a check on one of his injured shoulders and went into the boards with the other.

And Magnus Paajarvi used the game to show that he really is finding his game, ringing one off the post early in the second period and flying around like he was in Oklahoma City, where he went to rediscover his game.

“I think both were very good tonight. Maggie and Hemmer played really hard. I just wish Maggie would have shot,” said Renney of a pass back to veteran Ryan Whitney when he could have had the winner.

When the Oilers play the Leafs again in the years ahead, maybe the bottom line will be actually winning the game and what it means in the standings, but Wednesday night it was about having a terrific hockey game to watch in the middle of February.

Follow me on Twitter.com/sunterryjones

terry.jones@sunmedia.ca


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