EDMONTON - The Edmonton Oilers know the script by heart, having seen this movie from the other side more times than they care to remember.
Play your hearts out for 40 minutes just to stay close, visions of an upset dancing through your heads, then the other guys decide to get serious in the third period, score as many goals they need, and leave you sucking exhaust fumes in the loss column
Only this time it was Edmonton punching the gas against a lottery team, turning a 2-1 third-period deficit into a 6-3 triumph over the Columbus Blue Jackets Friday night at Rexall Place.
"I think it shows the maturity of how far this team has come in a couple of years," said Ryan Jones, who led the comeback charge with three goals in the third period. "This is exactly the team we need to come back on in games like this. We have the guys in here to win hockey games like that and we just did it."
You could almost say HE did it, scoring the second, fourth and sixth Oilers goals at 1:41, 8:06 and 19:22 into an empty net.
"I've never scored two in a game, so just to get the two is pretty special," said the blue-collar (not that you can see it under the hair) winger. "I don't know if you could ever expect that, especially a guy like me just grinding away. The goals don't come that easy.
"On a night like tonight, especially when we needed them it was something special. It's one of the highlights of my NHL career so far."
Two points below the playoff cutline and on a three-game losing streak, with Calgary in town Saturday, the Oilers needed this one badly. Losing at home to the last place team in the NHL wouldn't have gone over well with anyone.
"In the past we pissed these games away quite regularly," said Shawn Horcoff, who had a two-assist, 17-faceoff, 30-shift evening. "But hockey is such a game of belief and confidence and when you have it as a team you can come back in any game.
"This was a big game for us. We lose that and we go to one game over .500 with another game Saturday. It would have really put us in a tough situation. I think we all realized it in here.. at least I did."
The Oilers looked like they were going to beat Columbus like a 15th place team when Jordan Eberle scored on a power play just 21 seconds after the opening faceoff.
But instead of a rout, it was the start of a 39-minute lull. The Jackets took over momentum, outshooting Edmonton by a 2-1 margin en route to tying it late in the first and going up 2-1 through 40 minutes.
The Oilers looked to be in trouble, but the third period was a orange and blue blur.
"The first period was kind of awful, I don't know what happened," said Ladislav Smid, who, after going two years without a goal, now how two in the last four games. "But we really showed the inner strength, what this team can really do. It was great to see guys playing the way they did in the third period."
Trying to win games with 20 minutes and 21 seconds worth of effort isn't recommended on a nightly basis, but it's good to know that when two periods are already in the books, there might still be time.
Head coach Tom Renney's message to the troops between the second and third was simple: Go for it.
"Go play," he said. "If you're going to lose a game, do it trying to win."
It was an entertaining, hard-hitting and rather important evening for an Oilers team that began the evening two points out of a playoff spot.
Winning goalie Devan Dubnyk, for one, loves the intensity that accompanies every game this year.
"It's a different feel preparing for the game when you know that you don't just want to win, you need to win," he said. "That's something that we're going to have to learn to do from now until the end of the year."