Edmonton Oilers end Florida Panthers' home win streak

By Walter Villa, The Sports Xchange

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Edmonton Oilers right winger Matt Hendricks took it on the chin ... and the forehead ... and the chest ... and just about every other body part.

Hendricks absorbed a pounding from the fists of Florida Panthers defenseman Erik Gudbranson just 3:16 into Monday night's game.


Once that punishment was dished out, the Oilers went to work, producing a 4-2 win over the Panthers at the BB&T Center. It was Florida's first home loss since Dec. 8.

Left winger Taylor Hall had two goals, and right winger Teddy Purcell added a goal and two assists to lead the Oilers.

Much of the attention before, during and after the game was focused on Hendricks, who made his return after serving a three-game suspension for the hit he put on Panthers All-Star defenseman Aaron Ekblad.


"Matt didn't mean to hurt the guy," Purcell said of Ekblad, who has missed four consecutive games due to the concussion he sustained on that Jan. 10 play. "You hate to see one of their top defensemen go down."

Coincidentally, Gudbranson, who administered the beating to Hendricks on Monday, did not play past the second period due to an apparent back strain.

Hendricks said his team bent but didn't break during the win.

As for the fight, Hendricks said: "They thought they had to send a message, the code. I had to stand up for what I did. We got it over with quick and moved on. There was no jawing after that."

After Florida closed its deficit to 3-2, Purcell got the insurance goal with 1:28 left in the game after Panthers goalie Al Montoya had started to head for the bench for an extra attacker. Montoya tried to retreat and made a diving attempt -- to no avail.

"It was nerve-racking," Purcell said of not wanting to blow the relatively easy opportunity. "I knew (Montoya) was struggling to get back there. I might have had a step on him. I just tried to shoot it as hard as I could."


Oilers goalie Cam Talbot, in his first start since signing a three-year contract extension Sunday, made 31 saves. It was the 11th start in the past 13 games for the 28-year-old veteran.

Trailing 3-0, Florida scored two goals in the first seven minutes of the third period. Right winger Reilly Smith scored unassisted from the top of the right circle, and center Quinton Howden tapped in a goal in the crease on a great pass from left winger Shawn Thornton.

"We were just trying to crash the net," Howden said of his goal.

It wasn't enough, though, and the Oilers, who are in last place in the Western Conference, snapped a seven-game road losing streak. Even with the win, the Oilers (19-23-5) have the worst road record in the NHL (6-14-4).

Florida (26-15-5), which leads the Atlantic Division, had its franchise-record, seven-game home winning streak broken.

Montoya, normally Florida's backup goalie, made his first start since Jan. 10, when he beat Edmonton 2-1. This time, though, Montoya allowed three goals on Edmonton's first eight shots on net. He finished with 20 saves.

Edmonton scored on its first shot of the game. With 5:50 elapsed in the first period, Hall took a great pass from Purcell, scoring on a breakaway, beating Montoya high to the stick side.


The Oilers made it 2-0 on a goal by center Jordan Eberle, his 11th of the season, with 2:08 left in the first period. Eberle was set up in front on an assist by center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.

"Complete giveaways," Panthers coach Gerard Gallant said of how his team allowed the first two goals.

Hall scored again, this time 4:19 into the second period, beating Montoya on a wrist shot, and that 3-0 lead was too much for Florida to overcome. Purcell again had the primary assist.

The Panthers have now followed their franchise-record, 12-game winning streak by losing four in a row.

"I'm not happy with how we played," Gallant said. "We've got the two Stanley Cup finalists from last year (Chicago Blackhawks and Tampa Bay Lightning) coming in the next two games. Hopefully, that will get our game back. It's a big challenge."

NOTES: Edmonton coach Todd McLellan said C Ryan Nugent-Hopkins sustained a "long-term" hand injury while blocking a shot Monday. ... Panthers C Dave Bolland (lower-body injury) sat out. Florida C Corbin Knight was a healthy scratch. ... Edmonton scratched D Brad Hunt, C Anton Lander and LW Lauri Korpikoski. ... Florida, which just came off a 3-2-1 trip, began a four-game homestand. The Chicago Blackhawks visit Friday. ... Edmonton played the opener of a three-game trip. The Oilers play at Tampa Bay on Tuesday. ... The Oilers had played eight consecutive one-goal games before Monday.


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