Edmonton Oilers' Teemu Hartikainen, right, of Finland, and Columbus Blue Jackets' Vinny Prospal, of the Czech Republic, work for the puck in the first period of an NHL hockey game, Sunday, March 25, 2012, in Columbus, Ohio. (AP Photo/Paul Vernon)
COLUMBUS, Ohio - It was a Columbus Blue Jackets goal that fired up the Edmonton Oilers.
Down 2-1 after Rick Nash scored on a penalty shot, the Oilers ran off four unanswered goals in the remainder of the second period on the way to a 6-3 victory on Sunday.
"We came into this one with our eyes closed," coach Tom Renney said of his team, which was listless in its wind-up to a four-game road trip. "You try to conjure up the proper emotion and passion to play and sometimes it's just not quite there. Luckily for us we did respond to their goal."
Boy, did they.
Ryan Jones had a goal and two assists, Chris VandeVelde scored his first NHL goal, and Ladislav Smid, Ben Eager, Sam Gagner and Eric Belanger also scored. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle and Ryan Whitney each had two assists for the young and improving Oilers, who have points in their last seven games.
"The second period we were opportunistic and we were getting bounces and just shooting the puck and good things happened," said VandeVelde, whose first goal came a day after he was called up from Oklahoma City to play in his 13th NHL game.
The Oilers' Devan Dubnyk made 29 saves to improve to 14-8-2 in 2012 and the offence came alive.
In a matchup of the teams with the two worst records in the NHL, it was clear which has farther to go. The loss assured the injury-riddled Blue Jackets of having the worst record in the NHL this season.
"We got what we deserved tonight, that's for sure," interim Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards said.
Nash, Mark Letestu and Derick Brassard had goals for Columbus. But it was Nash's goal which seemed to energize the Oilers, who had just tied the game on Jones' 17th goal earlier in the period.
The Oilers went 3-0-1 on the trip to Nashville, Tampa Bay, Florida and Columbus.
"We've certainly had our trials and tribulations this year to say the least," said Renney, whose club came in with 69 points, behind all but Columbus' 55. "We have hockey yet to play. Our hope and our objective is to make sure that we finish the whole season this way. It's a good trip for us. We've got to go home now and take care of some business there and then head back out again. It's an indication at least of what we're capable of when we've got things on our side."
The Oilers took advantage of a lacklustre performance by goalie Steve Mason and the rest of the Blue Jackets' defence. Allen York replaced Mason at the start of the third.
With the score tied at 1 at the 7:42 mark of the second period, Nash was hooked down by Smid on a breakaway and was awarded a penalty shot. In a no-frills approach, he skated in and just flicked a hard, low shot past Dubnyk. Nash had scored on just one of the eight previous penalty shots in his career.
The Oilers responded with four goals in a span of 7:49.
VandeVelde scored a soft goal when he collected a loose puck in the neutral zone, skated laterally to the top of the left faceoff circle and sent a wrister past Mason.
"It felt good. It's been a long time coming to get to this level," the 25-year-old VandeVelde said. "I got a few games last year and it didn't happen so I'm just glad to get it out of the way the first game."
Smid then got his fifth goal on a shot from just inside the blue line with almost no one between him and Mason.
It was his second goal of the road trip—from a defenceman with just nine goals in 407 career games.
"I can't explain it. It's an awesome feeling," Smid said with a laugh. "I'm really happy that I got to score twice on this road trip in a short period of time and help the team win this game."
A defensive lapse by David Savard gave Eager the puck with an open alley to the net and he scored unassisted from 20 feet out.
There were boos after that goal, which made it 4-2.
They grew louder from a crowd of 12,295 a moment later when the Blue Jackets failed to clear on the penalty kill and Gagne's shot from the top of the left circle got past Mason high on the glove side.
When York stopped the first shot of the third period, the crowd responded with a derisive cheer.
NOTES: Nash's penalty shot was the 25th in Blue Jackets team history. It was the seventh goal and the first since March 25, 2010, against Chicago (by Jake Voracek). ... Theo Peckham slid awkwardly into the boards as he was being hit by Nash in the first period and left the game. He did not return and the team announced he had a concussion. ... Mason had won six of his last eight starts but gave up five goals on 13 shots in the second period. ... Belanger added a short-handed empty-netter late. ... The five goals given up in a period was a Columbus franchise record at home.