EDMONTON – The Columbus Blue Jackets ended their latest slump by preying on the only team below them in the Western Conference standings.
Kristian Huselius and R.J. Umberger had a goal and an assist each Thursday as the Blue Jackets stopped a four-game losing skid with a 4-2 victory over the Edmonton Oilers.
Antoine Vermette and Jan Hejda also scored for the Blue Jackets (16-20-9) who had lost 13 of their last 14 and ended a franchise-record 13-game road losing streak.
“All we needed was a win, we didn’t care who it came against,” said Jackets goalie Mathieu Garon. “I think it was a desperate game for both teams tonight. Both teams needed this badly and we played well and came out on top.”
Columbus captain Rick Nash said the team has to take the win in perspective.
“It’s only one,” he said. “We have a long way to go. But we played well. We had four lines going tonight.”
Blue Jackets head coach Ken Hitchcock believes that his team has been turning its fortunes around despite the lack of wins.
“This is six of the last seven that we have played real solid,” he said. “In this game the whole feeling on the bench changed when we scored the third goal. When we got that one we were back to being the team we were before. Everybody was completely energized.”
Fernando Pisani and Sam Gagner replied for the Oilers (16-23-5), who have lost four in a row and 11 of their last 12.
Columbus is now four points ahead of last-place Edmonton in the Western Conference.
“You’d like to think you could conjure up a way to win against a team that is battling you for last place,” said Oilers head coach Pat Quinn. “It’s why we are 15th. The way the goals are going in is so repetitive it would be hard to understand why we should be anywhere but there.”
The Oilers were initially going to go golfing in Palm Springs over the next four days but will hold a mini-camp instead to try and straighten things out.
“We’re not playing like we have skill,” Quinn said. “We’re not playing like we have drive and work ethic. We’re not playing like we really care what our occupation is. And we’re in 15th place.”
After a ponderous start to the game, the two teams finally got things going with three minutes left in the first period, trading goals just 19 seconds apart.
Columbus got on the board first as Rick Nash bounced a pas from behind the goal-line off of Huselius to Umberger in front and his no-look backhand shot beat Edmonton goalie Devan Dubnyk.
The Oilers responded quickly. Pisani took a bouncing puck away from Blue Jackets defender Kris Russell and scored his first of the season glove-side past Garon to make it 1-1 after the first period.
The game slowed down to a snail’s pace once again to start the second, with no good chances until late in the middle frame.
Edmonton came close to taking the lead with two minutes remaining as Shawn Horcoff tried to stuff a puck in off of Garon’s skate, but Fedor Tutin dove into the net and swatted the puck out of harm’s way.
Less than a minute later, the Blue Jackets went up 2-1 as Raffi Torres chipped a pass to Vermette in the slot and he blew a shot over Dubnyk’s shoulder.
The Oilers tied the game 1:36 into the period when Denis Grebeshkov passed to Gagner at the side of the net, and the Edmonton forward sent a shot through Garon’s legs.
Columbus regained the lead two minutes later on the power play as Huselius corralled a big rebound and wired home a goal from a poor angle to make it 3-2.
The Blue Jackets made it a two-goal game with just over eight minutes to play as a Hejda blast from the point changed directions and went in off of the skate of Oiler Patrick O’Sullivan.
The Blue Jackets are in Calgary on Friday night while the Oilers are off until Tuesday when they play host to Nashville.
Notes: It was the third of four meetings between the two teams this season. They split their earlier two games… Former Oiler Mathieu Garon has started all three games in net for Columbus this year against Edmonton… Devan Dubnyk made his second career NHL start for Edmonton. In his first game he allowed seven goals in a loss to St. Louis. Jeff Deslauriers has started 21 of 22 games since the team lost Nikolai Khabibulin (back) on Nov. 16…. Edmonton defenceman Steve Staios was able to play despite leaving the Oilers last game after taking a shot to the knee. Fellow blue-liner Lubomir Visnovsky missed his third game with an ankle injury… Columbus wingers Alexandre Picard (undisclosed injury) and Raffi Torres (flu) returned to the lineup after missing the Jackets last game against Vancouver… Leading the Blue Jackets with 19 goals, captain Rick Nash has now gone seven games without scoring… Oiler forward Shawn Horcoff played his 600th career NHL game.