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Oilers pound Panthers for third win in a row

The SportsXchange

EDMONTON, Alberta -- Three wins in row might not sound like much, unless it happens to be a team's longest win streak of the season.

"It's always nice when you're coming off the ice and the fans are clapping instead of yelling, 'You suck,'" Edmonton coach Dallas Eakins said after his Oilers extended their modest run with a 4-1 decision over the visiting Florida Panthers on Thursday.

"You want to give your fans something. These people dress their kids up, drive here through tough weather, pay great prices for seats and popcorn. They come in looking to be entertained. You owe it to them to give everything you have and win hockey games."

It was just the Oilers' third win in 10 home games, improving their overall record to 7-15-2, but it sure beats losing.

"It's a good feeling," Oilers center Sam Gagner said. "For the most part of that game, we played the right way. The focus for us is to continue to do that."

The Panthers (6-13-4) were on a roll of their own, having won three of their four previous games, but they fell behind 1-0 early in the first and 3-0 by the midway mark of the second. They were unable to come back.

"The key was the energy, we didn't have any," Panthers coach Peter Horachek said. "That's the key to the game, if your energy is better and you go out with a workman attitude, everything improves, the whole game improves from our standpoint.

"I thought at the beginning of the game, you could see the work ethic wasn't there, the legs weren't there, the compete level wasn't there. That made it a struggle."

The Oilers capitalized on an early power play and made it 1-0 on center Jordan Eberle's seventh of the season just 56 seconds after the opening faceoff. It was Edmonton's 12th unanswered goal dating back to the third period against the Calgary Flames two games ago. They scored four consecutive goals in the third period of that one and beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 7-0 at home on Tuesday.

"Our starts have been hurting us," Panthers defenseman Tom Gibert said. "We've had a handful of games where we're behind the eight-ball right away, and in this league, it's hard to catch up.

"They came out strong, and we just weren't ready to match that."

The Oilers made it 13 and 14 in a row in the second period when Gagner converted a brilliant pass from right wing Nail Yakupov and left winger David Perron scored his sixth goal in seven games to make it 3-0 Edmonton. Perron's goal came on a power play.

"That's when hockey gets real tough, when you go down two or three goals," Panthers right wing Scottie Upshall said. "Teams in this league, once you're down two or three goals, it's tough to come back."

Edmonton goalie Devan Dubnyk finally gave up a goal, his first in almost six full periods, when Upshall put Florida on the board at 16:34 to make it 3-1 at the second intermission.

Florida increased the pressure in the third period and had a couple of power plays with which to close the gap, but the Oilers closed the deal with more calm than they showed in quite some time.

Eberle put it away with an empty-netter.

Dubnyk finished with 24 saves. Florida goalie Tim Thomas stopped 31 shots.

"When these guys get confidence, they're so dangerous and so effective," Dubnyk said of his teammates. "This is what we're used to feeling like in here as a group. It's just fun to go out there and play like that, having the confidence from myself on out that going into a game you know you're going to win. It's a great feeling to have."

The Oilers have three days off before they try to make it four wins in a row when the Chicago Blackhawks visit on Tuesday.

Florida heads to Calgary on Friday for the finale of its five-game Western road trip.

NOTES: The Oilers scored a 4-3 decision over Florida in the teams' previous meeting two weeks ago, but none of Edmonton's goal-scorers from that overtime win (RW Mark Arcobello, healthy scratch; D Taylor Fedun, minors; and D Philip Larsen, injured) was in the lineup Thursday for the rematch. ... Oilers coach Dallas Eakins appeared in 41 games with the Panthers during his playing days. ... Panthers G Tim Thomas made his seventh consecutive start since he returned to action from a groin injury. ... Friday will be the 10th anniversary of Edmonton's Heritage Classic. The NHL's first outdoor game drew 51,167 fans to Commonwealth Stadium. ... Edmonton C Sam Gagner's second-period goal ended his streak of 10 games without a goal since he returned from a broken jaw.
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