By Rob Tychkowski, The Sports Xchange
EDMONTON, Alberta — Nobody expected an offensive eruption from the second-lowest scoring team in the NHL, least of all the Dallas Stars.
But the Edmonton Oilers surprised them Thursday night.
Matt Benning scored the winning goal with 2:27 left in the third period as the slumping Oilers erupted for a season-high goal total in a 5-4 victory over the Stars at Rogers Place.
“It was a good sign for our team,” Benning said. “It was a close game going into the third, and those are the kind of games you need to win to be there in the playoffs. It’s a step in the right direction to get some confidence in this locker room.”
The Oilers came into the game averaging 1.88 goals per game, and even less than that during a just-concluded three-game road trip that saw the score just four times. However, they finally discovered their scoring touch to improve to 3-5-1 on the season.
Ryan-Nugent Hopkins scored twice while Connor McDavid, Patrick Maroon and Benning added goals in Edmonton’s second win in seven games.
“We know that we have that in our room, that we’re capable of that,” Nugent-Hopkins said. “Tonight it kind of clicked for us, so we want to keep that rhythm and get on a roll here.”
The Stars (5-5-0) had a 4-3 lead with less than eight minutes to go but let it get away in losing their second in a row. Jamie Benn scored twice for Dallas, which also got goals from Alexander Radulov and Esa Lindell.
“Once you get the lead, you expect to win that game, we have to learn to win that game,” Dallas center Jason Spezza said. “It’s a disappointing result. I think we’re all upset about this game tonight.”
The Stars thought four goals might be enough against a team that hadn’t scored more than three all season, but it wasn’t.
“It just shows how hard it is to beat a team in their rink,” Spezza said. “You have to play 60 minutes, play 60 smart minutes to win on the road. With the lead in the third, you have to find a way to win that game.”
The Stars came back from one-goal deficits three times, then finally grabbed a lead midway through the third. That made the loss even tougher to stomach.
“We clawed back, you have to like that part of it,” Dallas coach Ken Hitchcock said. “But it is really disappointing to lose that game. We are not doing enough of the details that can control the hockey game. We look like we have a way better record by the way we play, but in the details, we don’t get it done. Not right now.”
McDavid opened the scoring at 10:31 if the first period, marking the first time Edmonton had a lead in regulation since the second game of the season, a span of 427 minutes. Unfortunately, it lasted all of 63 seconds before the Stars tied it on Benn’s first goal of the night.
Maroon restored Edmonton’s advantage at 19:35 of the first period.
The team continued trading punches in the second, with Radulov scoring on a power play at 2:58, Nugent-Hopkins tying it for Edmonton at 13:46 and Benn tying it again on another power play at 16:19 to make it 3-3 after 40 minutes.
Lindell gave the Stars their first lead of the game at 10:25 of the third period on yet another power play, but this time the Oilers fought back to tie it on another one from Nugent-Hopkins at 12:16.
Benning scored the winner on a point shot that banked in off of Radulov’s skate.
“I kept it on the ice,” Benning said. “You never know what can happen when the puck gets there. Good things happen when you shoot.”
The Oilers finally found some offense, but their penalty killing was a disaster, giving up three goals on five Dallas chances.
“They made some good plays on the power play, but we didn’t hang our heads and feel bad for ourselves, we came out there and battled,” Benning said. “I thought we had a pretty good game down low and took pucks and bodies to the net.”
Edmonton finished 0-for-3 on the power play.