EDMONTON - The San Jose Sharks rallied back from a 3-1 third-period deficit to defeat the Edmonton Oilers 4-3 in a shootout Wednesday night at Rexall Place.
Sam Gagner, Shawn Horcoff and Ryan Jones each scored for the Oilers, while Logan Couture (2) and Tommy Wingels tallied for the Sharks. Devan Dubnyk made 31 saves, but was beaten by Couture and Dan Boyle in the shootout.
"(It's) very disappointing losing in penalty shots. We're a good team at that," said Head Coach Ralph Krueger post-game, adding that he thought the Oilers played well enough to win in regulation. "It's painful, but we have to look at the fact that we've got points in the last five games (3-0-2 in that stretch) and we'll move forward with that.
"But of course the pain of losing a 3-1 lead still dominates."
With a regulation win the Oilers would have been back in a playoff spot, but after collecting only a single point Wednesday, the club holds an 11-11-7 record (29 points) while the eighth-place Sharks improve to 13-10-6 (32 points).
"We got a point," said Horcoff. "It's no time to dwell on games like that. We played a lot of minutes of good hockey and really took it to that team. When it was 3-3, I thought we responded well. It's not like we sat back and let them keep coming like we have a little bit in the past. We're getting there. It's still a bit of a process, but I still believe in this team.
"We're doing too many good things to wilt away and go away here. We're still going to make that push. We've got to move forward, take it and move on to the next one."
"It's tough," added Jones, whose goal was his first of the 2012-13 campaign. "That's a game that not only did we need the two points, but I thought we deserved it. It's one of those things in hockey. It doesn't matter how well you play, sometimes you don't come away with the win."
The Oilers had a pair of glorious scoring chances early, but were unable to convert. Nail Yakupov led the charge on a 2-on-1 rush with Sam Gagner, but the club's leading-scorer couldn't quite connect on the one-time attempt. Less than a minute after that, Ryan Smyth and Jordan Eberle stepped up a similar odd-man chance, but Sharks netminder Antti Niemi was there.
The Oilers came up empty on an earlier power-play chance, but went back to the advantage at 10:11 as Sharks defenceman Dan Boyle was sent off for tripping. Just 36 seconds in, Gagner walked in to the top of the near faceoff circle and wired a slap shot past the Finnish goalie to give the home side a 1-0 lead.
With momentum on their side, the Oilers poured it on moments later in search of another; a point shot by Nick Schultz was initially stopped by Niemi, but the rebound popped out to the slot where Mike Brown pounced, but the newest Oiler's in-close shot bounced off the post.
Trailing 5-4 in shots and not wanting the game to get away, the Sharks responded in a hurry. Logan Couture snapped a shot on goal, it squeezed through the legs of Dubnyk, pinballed in the crease and went off Mark Fistric's left skate and in with 5:41 to play.
San Jose led 9-5 in shots after one.
Early in the second as the teams skated 4-on-4 because of a harmless late-period fracas, Joe Pavelski burst in and rifled a shot that beat Dubnyk, but rattled off the crossbar.
Shortly thereafter, the Oilers went to their third power-play of the night as Martin Havlat was assessed an interference minor. And because the veteran lipped off a little too much to the official, Havlat picked up an extra two and 10 for unsportsmanlike conduct.
The Oilers couldn't come up with a goal on the extended man-advantage, however.
With exactly 10 minutes to play in the second, the Sharks went to their first power-play as Nick Schultz was charged with interference. Couture struck iron, but visitors couldn't hit pay dirt.
Just seconds after Schultz's penalty expired, the defenceman raced up ice on an odd-man rush with Horcoff. One pass, one shot and one celebration later, the Oilers restored their one-goal lead.
4:07 into the third period, the Oilers made it a 3-1 game. Scoring his first goal of the season, Ryan Jones stripped Matt Irwin of the puck behind the net and tucked the puck home on a wraparound.
"We liked the start of the third period," said Krueger. "Getting ourselves a 3-1 lead was a good feeling there. But you can't give anything to a team like that."
"I don't know exactly what happens, but you've got to give them credit," added Jones. "They're a mature, veteran hockey team."
Couture picked up his second of the night with a power-play marker 2:43 after Jones' goal. 3:35 after that, Tommy Wingels sniped a shot past Dubnyk to make it a 3-3 game on the Sharks' 26th shot.
"I thought we panicked a little bit on the penalty kill," said Krueger. "I thought we over-collapsed on the net and stopped playing there for a second. It turned into a bit of a river hockey game after that. It opened up a touch more than we would have liked to have seen it."
With three minutes to play, Gagner raced down the wing and blasted a slap shot, but his missile caught iron.
Shots after 60 minutes were 34-25 San Jose as the game progressed to overtime and eventually a shootout where the Oilers couldn't come up with what they needed.
"We work hard at it," said Krueger of the shootout, which is often a crapshoot. "We did some penalty shots (Tuesday at practice) but it's a bit of a lottery, we all know that."
1. Sam Gagner | Saved
2. Jordan Eberle | SCORES
3. Ales Hemsky | Saved
1. Joe Pavelski | Saved
2. Logan Couture | SCORES
3. Dan Boyle | SCORES
OIL SPILLS: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was a late scratch. It was later announced that the 19-year-old has the flu. According to Krueger: "It's a little bit of a fever. We're hoping it's more of a 24-hour thing than anything else."
-- Ryan Dittrick, edmontonoilers.com | Follow me on Twitter @ryandittrick