A day after getting discouraged when the Boston Bruins came back and scored on them, the Oilers responded multiple times Friday night against the Buffalo Sabres to win 3-2 at First Niagara Center.
Erasing an early deficit and then one in the third period, the Oilers got the winner from Boyd Gordon to end their skid at four. It was a victory coach Dallas Eakins knows his team needed.
"It's important for our dressing room," Eakins said. "We fully understand critics and we fully understand and I embrace the result. You can stand and talk about how well you're playing and how you've improved, but if you're not getting points, no one's going to listen."
These were two valuable points in a back-to-back situation for the Oilers (5-8-1), who are on the road for two more games: Sunday at the New York Rangers and Tuesday at the Nashville Predators.
"Now we want to start a winning streak," said centre Mark Arcobello, who scored his third goal of the season. "Getting that win was big for us and now we've got to get back on track."
Facing the Sabres (3-10-2), the NHL's last-place team with just eight points in 15 games, this looked like a trap for an Edmonton team that didn't skate Friday morning after playing in Boston.
"Sometimes these things don't set up very well," Eakins said. "You've lost a few in a row and you're coming in to play a team that's struggling and you're playing back-to-back and the odds aren't lining up very well for you."
It didn't help the odds that the Oilers fell behind 26 seconds into the second period on Matt Moulson's first of the season. But Iiro Pakarinen answered 54 seconds later with the first of his NHL career.
"I don't even remember," said Pakarinen, who made his NHL debut Thursday night in Boston. "I was a little bit shocked. It was so fast of a situation. I jumped on the ice and the rebound was there and I tried to shoot as hard as I can."
Eakins said Pakarinen looked a bit like a "deer in the headlights" against the Bruins, and many of his Oilers teammates weren't much different. A 2-1 lead quickly turned into a 5-2 loss for Edmonton, which is without captain Andrew Ference (suspension) and left-winger Taylor Hall (knee injury).
"We were up by a goal we have a big hiccup and next thing you know we're kind of sulking and then boom-boom-boom it's in the back of our net," alternate captain Matt Hendricks said of the Bruins game. "We've had that problem all season."
That's why Eakins was impressed when his players took a deep breath when they went down Friday night, not just when Moulson opened the scoring but when Drew Stafford snapped a shot past Viktor Fasth 6:34 into the third to make it 2-1 Sabres.
At 11:42, Arcobello whiffed on a rebound attempt but beat Michal Neuvirth to tie it up again. That set the stage for Gordon's winner at 15:45 after Hendricks forced a turnover and Teddy Purcell found the fourth-line centre streaking to the net.
"Heno made a good play to him and then Teddy made a nice move and got the puck over and fortunately it went in for us," said Gordon, who has goals in two straight after none in the first 12 games of the season.
In a game between the last-place teams in each conference, the Oilers outshot the Sabres 52-31.
"We'll take 52 every night if we can," Eakins said.
But Neuvirth, who has excelled of late, was the difference in keeping the Sabres in it and frustrating the Oilers.
"He doesn't do a lot, but he doesn't do a lot wrong," said Hendricks, who played with Neuvirth in Washington. "He always just seems to be square with every shot. I think we could've had quite a few goals tonight if it wasn't for Neuvy."
Notes — Legendary Buffalo Bills quarterback Jim Kelly and longtime Sabres announcer Rick Jeanneret took part in a ceremonial puck drop on Hockey Fights Cancer night. Kelly, who led Buffalo's NFL team to four straight Super Bowls, was declared jaw cancer-free in September. Jeanneret said on local TV before the game that he was told this week he's throat cancer-free. ... During a commercial break in the second period, Sabres general manager Tim Murray said in a taped message that he was fighting for Bryan Murray. His uncle, the GM of the Ottawa Senators, has been fighting cancer since the summer. ... Martin Marincin replaced Oscar Klefbom in the lineup a day after the Oilers' loss in Boston.
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