Sam Gagner made it happen. Everything. The 22-year-old collected four goals and eight points, tying a team record set in the 80s when Wayne Gretzky (Mar. 19, 1983 and Jan. 4, 1984) and Paul Coffey (Mar. 14, 1986) made magic in orange and blue. As such, he was announced as the game's first, second and third star in a thrilling 8-4 win over the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday night at Rexall Place.
Just another day's work.
Having made 108 stops on the last 113 shots he's been assigned with, Devan Dubnyk came out strong in the game's early moments, stoning Chicago's Brent Seabrook on one quality chance, and another moments later when Jonathan Toews helped orchestrate a wide-side rebound opportunity for Viktor Stalberg; No. 40 made pads saves on both, keeping the game scoreless while the Blackhawks lept out to a 4-0 lead in shots.
The sophomore's heroics were short-lived, mind you. At 6:29, Jamal Mayers burst into the home side's zone and snapped a sneaky and well-screened wrister on the netminder's blocker-side, putting the Blackhawks up 1-0 on their sixth shot.
An ill-crafted pass to the point by Shawn Horcoff near the period's 10-minute mark sprung Patrick Kane on a partial breakaway, but the Blackhawk's weak backhand attempt dribbled off Dubnyk's near post. At this point, Chicago had extended to a 12-3 shot advantage.
The Oilers' challenged opening-period ensemble continued as Sam Gagner took a tumble near his own blueline, which allowed the Blackhawks to break in on a dangerous 3-on-1 chance. Andrew Shaw was dished to at the circle, but the rookie's shot grazed the crossbar, keeping the home side in it.
Moments later at 13:08, Duncan Keith was charged with holding, putting the Oilers' third-ranked, 21.6-percent power-play to work. It was an unsuccessful venture, but Chicago was assessed a too many men minor moments later to put the Oilers back on the man-advantage. While they were unable to engineer a goal, the home side did crawl closer on the shot clock with several point and close-quarter opportunities.
Ben Eager was called for high-sticking at 17:52, squashing the momentum that the Oilers had built up; but Chicago's was, too, with a squandered chance on the power-play, sending the teams to the locker rooms in the same 1-0 score. The Blackhawks also held a 14-9 edge in shots through 20 minutes.
40 seconds into the period, the Blackhawks extended to a 2-0 lead. Following an ill-timed Ryan Smyth turnover in the neutral zone, Patrick Kane rushed in on a 2-on-1 with Patrick Sharp. No. 88's pass connected and Sharp whistled it home with a blistering slapper through Dubnyk's wickets.
The Oilers got it back in a hurry. 1:42 later and with Brent Seabrook in chase, Sam Gagner sent Taylor Hall in on a breakaway. The sophomore protected the puck and tossed a weak shot on Crawford; cashing, too, as the netminder miscalculated Hall's short-side attempt.
A penalty to Bryan Bickell put the Oilers back on the man-advantage to seek and hunt down the tie, but they were unable to capitalize. It didn't change the home side's mentality, however, as the 2-2 goal was within grasp. Gagner busted in on a 2-on-1 with Hall and, while No. 89's attempted pass across was intercepted, Gagner stuck with it and netted his sixth goal with a heads-up wraparound at 7:26.
Separate boarding penalties to Barker and Bickell put each team on the power-play midway through the period. Chicago's chance came up empty, but the Oilers' search for the go-ahead goal had a positive result. With only seven seconds remaining in the advantage, Ryan Whitney blasted a slapper, post-in, past a screened goaltender to put the Oilers up 3-2 on their 17th shot.
Challenging Chicago's D, Hall rushed in a drew a penalty when Seabrook was assessed a tripping minor, putting the Oilers' hot man-advantage back to the ice at 14:25. Just over a minute in, it was cooled. Ales Hemsky's near-circle slapshot missed the target, causing the puck to bounce up and out of the visitors' end. As such, Toews helped choreograph the 3-3 goal when his 2-on-1 shot was stopped, but Sharp was there to pounce on the rebound and slide the puck past a sprawling Dubnyk.
Ladislav Smid picked up a cross-checking minor late in the period -- 25 seconds of Chicago's advantage were carried into the third, along with a 3-3 tie and 28-22 Blackhawks lead on the shot clock.
It took the Oilers only 1:54 to regain their one-goal advantage. A Whitney point shot was stopped and directed behind the cage, where it popped back to the doorstep; Gagner was quick to the scene, and No. 89 made no mistake in cashing on the sharp-angle opportunity. With the goal, he'd now amassed two goals and two assists on the night.
Four points wasn't enough. 1:49 later, Gagner helped Andy Sutton set up Cam Barker with a rocket from the line, eluding Crawford's grasp and putting the Oilers up 5-3 early in the period.
With the goal, Chicago Head Coach Joel Quenneville pulled his goalie and replaced him with Ray Emery.
At 5:57, the Blackhawks got one back. With Dubnyk unable to corral a long-range wrister, Dave Bolland raced in and popped home the rebound.
Just as quickly, the Oilers got it back; and in emphatic fashion, too. Notching his sixth point of the night, Gagner scored his hat trick goal with a short-side shot on Emery. Down came the hats, up went the noise level at Rexall Place, and the orange and blue established a 6-4 lead at 6:25. Having once already achieved the three-goal mark (Mar. 19, 2009 in Denver), it's Gagner's second career hat trick.
Gagner's six points is a mark that hasn't been achieved since Dec. 14, 1988 when Jari Kurri did it.
Penalties to Duncan Keith and Patrick Sharp put the Oilers on additional power-plays as the period's midway mark approached, but neither one could be converted on.
Gagner's historic night continued at 14:31. The Oilers completed an all-skill, three-way passing play that ended up on No. 89's stick; but only for a quick moment, as he redirected the puck past Emery for his fourth goal and seventh point. Upon announcing the goal, Rexall Place stood on its feet to celebrate the near record-setting mark.
Make it eight. And make it a tied team record. With another pretty move, Gagner set up Jordan Eberle for a tap-in, making it 8-4 and putting Gagner's list on an an illustrious list. Three Oilers have scored eight points in a single game: Wayne Gretzky, Paul Coffey, and now Sam Gagner.
What a night. Game over.
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