The combination of being shut out the last two games and an opponent that looked like imposters rather than the NHL's top team for part of the game allowed the Edmonton Oilers to roll to a 6-5 win over the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday at United Center.
Edmonton came into the game riding a five-game losing streak, including having been shut out and outscored 9-0 in its last two games, suffering a 3-0 defeat at Detroit and 6-0 at Nashville. But led by a pair of goals by Sam Gagner, the Oilers looked like world-beaters on Chicago's home ice.
"It's just a good feeling to come out with a win," Gagner said. "We wanted to respond after the last couple of games and we did a good job of that in the first. We got away from it a bit in the last two periods, but we were able to hang on to the win and that's the important thing."
The Oilers improved to 9-11-5 with the win, while the Blackhawks suffered only their second loss in regulation time this season, dropping to a 21-2-3 mark in front of a crowd of 22,020.
Edmonton jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the first period, scoring four goals within a 10-minute stretch, and never looked back.
"The explosion we had in the first period, you could see they were a little back on their heels coming off their loss in Colorado," Oilers coach Ralph Krueger said of Chicago's first loss in regulation time this season on Friday at Colorado. "They were slightly flat and we really took the opportunity."
Oilers forward Taylor Hall, who had a goal and an assist, said his team wanted to shake off the two prior shutouts and come out ready to attack against the Blackhawks.
"For us to come out and have a 4-0 lead against the Blackhawks, the best team in the league, is great for us and it's pretty much what won us the game. They weren't just going to roll over and we knew that."
Chicago coach Joel Quenneville was not happy with his team's second consecutive loss in regulation time.
"(We're) definitely disappointed with the way we began the game," Quenneville said. "We've seen that movie before from them. We liked the response though after that. It was a tough ending. Certainly looked like we had a chance to get the equalizer. Give them credit because we faced a dangerous opponent and they attacked well."
Even with the Hawks' rallying for four goals in the second period and one more tally in the third period, they just couldn't come all the way back to force either overtime or a potential shootout.
"We definitely had a ton of momentum there," Chicago goalie Corey Crawford said. "Our guys were skating hard and just making the right plays, and I don't know how many chances there we just missed the open net."
Edmonton blasted out to a 4-0 lead in the first period, scoring four times within a 10-minute span, with Ganger's two goals, one from Mike Brown and another from Ryan Whitney that chased starting Chicago goalie Ray Emery.
That move was almost an exact reversal of what happened Friday at Colorado, when Crawford gave up five goals before he was replaced by Emery, who saw his career-best 10-game winning streak come to an end, suffering his first loss of the season.
"Obviously it's not the way we want to start," Crawford said. "At that point you've got nothing to lose and we were just trying to get back to the things that make us a good team and we did that the rest of the game. It could be pretty easy to just pack it in and forget about it, and move on to the next game. We know in this room the skill and the firepower that we have that we can come back in any game."
Whether the Blackhawks were still experiencing jet lag from Friday night's 6-2 loss at Denver - their first defeat in regulation time this season - something was definitely wrong.
"We were on the receiving end," Quenneville said. "(The Oilers are) a dangerous team, we made some mistakes mentally and we weren't sharp."
It's pretty clear that the Blackhawks are really starting to feel the impact of the loss of Patrick Sharp, who will be out for the next 3-4 weeks with an injured left shoulder, sustained last Wednesday at home against Colorado.
Without Sharp's play and leadership, Chicago struggled far too many times, particularly on defense, which has been its strong suit during the first half of the season.
But having played seven games in 11 nights also contributed to the Blackhawks' lackluster play. They now will enjoy two days off before their next game, Thursday at Columbus, the start of a four-game roadtrip.
"Absolutely, it'll be good for us," Quenneville said when asked if his team needs a break. "We're just going to take a couple of days off.
"We have to get us some energy. When you're able to play a game and feel good, I think your thought process is much more effective. Sometimes, it's through your hands or your feet or legs, you're not thinking good. It slows you down and your team, but I think everybody knows we need some energy to get back into it with four tough games in a row."
Chicago closed Edmonton's early 4-0 lead to 4-2 on second period goals by Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa. Edmonton responded with a goal by Shawn Horcoff to make it 5-2, but the Blackhawks' Sheldon Brookbank closed the score to 5-3. Edmonton's Hall made it 6-3, followed by a goal by Chicago's Brent Seabrook that made it 6-4.
Kane scored his second goal of the game in the third period to close the gap to 6-5, but Chicago would come no closer despite outshooting its opponents 37 to 25 in the game, including 11-4 in the final period.
NOTES: Dubnyk left the game at 9:45 of the second period after being accidentally knocked to the ice by teammate Teemu Hartikainen in a wild scramble in front of the goal. Dubnyk lay motionless on the ice for several minutes before finally getting to his feet. He was replaced by Yann Danis. ... Chicago still leads the overall series by a 55-48-12-4 margin (30-19-7-4 at home). The season series is now tied at 1-1 (Chicago beat Edmonton on Feb. 25 at the United Center). Both teams meet one final time in the shortened regular season on April 24 in Edmonton. ... After the upcoming four-game roadtrip, the Hawks return to Chicago on March 25 vs. the Los Angeles Kings, the start of a three-game homestand and five of six games at the United Center. Edmonton, meanwhile, concludes its season-long nine-game road trip (the Oilers are 2-4-2 after Sunday's game) Tuesday at Colorado, and then return home to begin a four-game homestand and seven of their next nine at home.