erik gudSUNRISE, Fla. — Florida won a fight that everyone knew was coming.
What the Panthers needed more, however, was a win on the scoreboard — which they didn’t get. So a team that was unbeatable for about a month now suddenly can’t beat anyone.
Teddy Purcell assisted on both of Hall’s goals and added the clincher with 1:28 left for the Oilers, who built a 3-0 lead and withstood a Florida rally in the final 20 minutes.
“Pretty good hockey game,” Edmonton coach Todd McLellan said. “It went back and forth. We owned parts of the game. They owned chunks of the game. It was good for us to experience that on the road.”
Jordan Eberle also scored for the Oilers.
Reilly Smith and Quinton Howden scored early in the third period for Florida, which has dropped four straight since winning 12 in a row. Al Montoya gave up three goals on the first seven shots he faced, and the Panthers had their club-record home winning streak snapped at seven games.
Since their winning streak, the Panthers have been outscored 16-5 — yet remain in the No. 2 spot in the Eastern Conference playoff chase.
“Half a game again,” coach Gerard Gallant said. “It’s not good enough. We give them a couple of goals, we give them, I don’t know, four or five breakaways tonight. We gave them odd-man rushes. It wasn’t a fun game to coach.”
Purcell’s goal came when Montoya was heading toward the bench for an extra attacker, then turned back but not in time to make what would have been a spectacular save. Montoya stopped 19 shots.
“We’ve got to settle it down and kind of re-evaluate how we’ve been playing and what’s going wrong,” Florida’s Nick Bjugstad said. “We can’t overthink it, but we do have to address some things.”
Florida was again without All-Star defenceman Aaron Ekblad, who hasn’t played since taking a huge hit from Edmonton’s Matt Hendricks on Jan. 11. Hendricks was penalized for boarding and subsequently suspended three games for the play, coincidentally returning to the Oilers’ lineup Monday.
And Florida was waiting for him.
Fans booed him when he got on the ice, and raised their volume when Hendricks was shown on the scoreboard video screens early in the game. Moments after that, Panthers defenceman Erik Gudbranson squared off with Hendricks — getting at least 11 right-handed punches in, while the Oilers’ forward did all he could just to stay on his feet.
“That’s what fighting does,” Hall said. “People that want fighting out of the game, sometimes you just need some fisticuffs to settle things down and square off as a team and then we go play hockey. I thought it was a great response by Hendo. He’s the type of guy that thrives on that stuff.”
Hall opened the scoring not even 2 minutes after the fight ended, taking a pass from Purcell near centre ice after a Florida turnover and coming in on a breakaway. He beat Montoya to the stick side, and Eberle’s goal with 2:08 left in the first gave Edmonton a 2-0 lead.
Hall struck again early in the second, again getting set up by Purcell.
Talbot gave up the two quick ones to Smith and Howden early in the third, but settled back into a groove from there and denied two big Florida flurries in the final minutes.
NOTES: Hall had just one goal in his previous 14 games. … The Oilers haven’t lost at Florida since 2002, winning in each of their last seven visits — four in shootouts and another in overtime. … Edmonton C Ryan Nugent-Hopkins left in the second period with a hand injury that apparently occurred while he was blocking a shot. “And it’s going to be a long-term injury,” McLellan said. … Gudbranson wasn’t on the Panthers’ bench in the third period because of a back strain. … Florida opened a four-game homestand, with Stanley Cup champion Chicago coming in next on Friday.