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Oilers battle back against Blue Jackets to keep playoff hopes alive

The SportsXchange

EDMONTON -- The Edmonton Oilers led the Columbus Blue Jackets for just 3:08 of 60 minutes, but it was long enough for two very important points.

Ales Hemsky's late third period goal capped a wild triple-comeback victory Thursday night as the Oilers kept their slim playoff hopes alive with a thrilling 6-4 victory.

It was all kinds of sloppy -- they had to come back from 2-0, from 3-2 and from 4-3 to do it -- but Hemsky's winner and Sam Gagner's empty-netter saved their night.

"We made some mistakes that we weren't really happy with, costly mistakes, turnovers that end up in goals," said Gagner, who had two assists along with his empty-net goal. "But for us to battle back after doing that is a good feeling in here."

Something had to give in this one, with Columbus struggling terribly on the road (3-10-2 in 15 games away from home) and the Oilers 0-7-5 when coming home from a road trip of two games or longer.

In the end, it was Columbus, which still can't figure its road woes.

The Blue Jackets simply are not good away from home, and it's something they must figure out if their comeback is going to be complete, given that 10 of their last 15 contests are on the road.

"Right now we're kind of finding ourselves on our heels," said Blue Jackets center Mark Letestu. "It hasn't been coming easy for us and it's something we have to find a way to do on the road. Looking at our schedule, it's something we have to fix."

They started well enough, with Cam Atkinson scoring 10 seconds after the opening faceoff and Matt Calvert scoring the 2-0 goal at 12:04.

But Edmonton wouldn't go away.

Magnus Paajarvi closed it to 2-1 late in the first and Jordan Eberle tied it 2-2 early in the second.

When Artem Anisimov made it 3-2 late at 18:34 of the middle frame, Shawn Horcoff tied it 31 seconds later.

When Atkinson made it 4-3 just 27 seconds into the third, Corey Potter tied it for the Oilers at 3:06.

"We had some lulls where we kind of turned the puck over a little bit," said Eberle. "But we don't give up on this team, that's kind of the story of our team. We've come back a lot, more than I've ever seen. When we have the lead, protecting it is kind of troubling, but we found a way to come back with some timely goals."

Hemsky and Gagner finally put it away for good.

"To win in regulation was big, we recognized that on the bench," said Eberle. "We needed to pass these guys and not give them any points."

The Jackets are still alive, though, despite sitting in 15th place a month ago, seven points and seven teams below the playoff cutline.

Their 8-2-5 run has them within striking distance, to the great surprise of everyone but themselves.

"That's what we've expected to be," said defenseman Jack Johnson. "Nobody outside of our room has given us any chances or any hope and that's fine with us. They've talked about our team having a rebuilding year inside the room that's not going to fly. ... we're not willing to throw away a year."

NOTES: The Columbus goal 10 seconds after the opening faceoff was two seconds shy of the fastest goal against Edmonton in franchise history (eight seconds scored by Tim Kerr in 1989). ... Magnus Paajarvi's first period marker gave him a goal in all three games this season against Columbus... They've been outscored 40-22 on the road this year (19-7) in the first period. ... The Oilers, meanwhile, are 0-7-5 when coming home from a road trip of two games or longer... coming into the game, Columbus netminder Sergei Bobrovsky has been the best goalie in the NHL the last month. He was 7-1-3, with a 1.25 GAA and .961 save percentage heading into the Oilers game. ... Oilers D Nick Schultz is four games shy of 800. ... Columbus LW Jared Boll is fourth in the NHL in fighting majors with 10. ... Vinny Prospal's next goal will be his 253, giving him sole possession of 10th place all time among Czech players. ... Anisimov had a goal, two assists and went 63 percent in the faceoff circle. ... Linemate Atkinson had three points and nine shots.

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