Edmonton Oilers goalie Nikolai Khabibulin (35) celebrates after stopping Detroit Red Wings left wing Henrik Zetterberg (40) in the shootoutt. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jimmy Jeong
EDMONTON - What looked like a lopsided win quickly turned into a nail-biter for the Edmonton Oilers.
Patrick O'Sullivan scored the shootout winner as the Oilers blew a four-goal lead before salvaging a 6-5 victory over the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday night. Ales Hemsky had a pair of goals, Dustin Penner had a goal and three assists and J.F. Jacques, and Shawn Horcoff also scored as Edmonton (7-5-1) snapped a three-game losing skid.
Edmonton head coach Pat Quinn was breathing a sigh of relief after the wild game.
"We had a bunch of goals to start but unfortunately we didn't continue to play the same way we got those goals," he said. "Detroit's a pretty good team. You can't let them off the hook. We had some fear take over. They started checking and we didn't answer it.
"We got through it tonight, but it wasn't that pretty."
Horcoff had a season-best three point game on his return to the first line after only two points in his previous 12 games.
"It was nice," Horcoff said. "Penner and Hemmer having been playing at such a level, it's been outstanding. I'd been trying to stay positive."
Darren Helm, Henrik Zetterberg, Todd Bertuzzi, Jonathan Ericsson and Patrick Eaves replied in regulation for the Red Wings (4-4-3), who have lost four of their last five games.
Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard said it was tough to know whether to be glad his team came back the way they did, or upset they didn't get the win as a result.
"It's one of those give-and-take situations," he said. "It's one of those situations where you can be somewhat happy to battle back the way we did and steal a point but we still have to be disappointed with not getting the two points."
Detroit head coach Mike Babcock opted to focus primarily on the positives.
"It was very important for our team to battle back the way we did and show that kind of grit and determination," he said. "As a coach you have to question what they were doing at the start of the game.
"Overall, we shot ourselves in the foot there. But we challenged our team to respond and they did. It was a real good point from where we began with that terrible start."
Though trailing 5-2, Detroit had the momentum at the start the third period, and it paid off. Ericsson beat Edmonton goalie Nikolai Khabibulin glove-side with a long shot six and a half minutes in to cut the Oilers' lead to 5-3.
Detroit made it a one-goal game just over a minute later when Bertuzzi scored his second of the season.
The Red Wings completed the comeback with their fourth consecutive goal as Eaves fought for the puck on a rush in front of the Edmonton net and scored his first of the season to make it 5-5.
Detroit outshot Edmonton 20-6 in the third period.
Edmonton had the best chance in overtime but Tom Gilbert sent a shot just over the Detroit net.
The Oilers, who had not managed in goal in seven straight periods heading into the match, broke out of their scoring drought just 42 seconds into the game. Jacques put a rebound into an open net before Howard, who got the start ahead of a struggling Chris Osgood, could get back into position.
Edmonton added to its lead just before the midway point of the period. Howard allowed a big rebound on a hard shot from Shawn Horcoff, and Penner batted the puck out of the air and into the net for his ninth of the season.
The Oilers made it 3-0 three minutes later on the power play, as Penner picked the puck out of a scramble and slid it to Hemsky, who blasted it in from the face-off dot.
Khabibulin stopped all 15 shots he faced in the first period.
Edmonton went ahead by four just 58 seconds into the second frame when Hemsky outraced Brian Rafalski on a breakaway and buried the opportunity through Howard's pads.
The Red Wings finally got on the board seven minutes into the second as Helm picked the top corner with a laser shot over Khabibulin's shoulder for his first ever regular-season NHL goal. He has six in the playoffs.
Edmonton regained its four-goal cushion less than three minutes later. Horcoff scored his second of the season on a prolonged power play scramble in front of the Detroit net. Penner assisted on the goal for his fourth point of the night to move into a tie for third place in NHL scoring.
Detroit got a lucky goal three minutes after. Zetterberg sent a shot that was going way off target but hit defender Taylor Chorney and caromed into the net to make it 5-2.
The Wings showed some life late in the second and almost scored as Ville Leino had two shots rattle off posts behind Khabibulin. That seemed to fuel their third period comeback.
The Oilers start a short two-game trip and a string of seven of eight on the road in Boston on Saturday morning while the Wings next see action on Saturday night as they close out a five-game trip in Calgary on Saturday night.
Notes: Edmonton centre Shawn Horcoff's three-point performance was more than the two points total he had racked up for the entire season. He had been held pointless for the last seven gamesa In the wake of the news that defenceman Ladislav Smid had the H1N1 flu last week, two other Oilers were unable to suit up for the game due to illness. Defenceman Lubomir Visnovsky and forward Mike Comrie sat out the match with illness, in Comrie's case a relapse after playing their last game following sitting the previous two outa There is some good news on the Oiler injury front as forward Fernando Pisani (back) and defenceman Steve Staios (concussion) resumed skating this weeka Detroit forward Pavel Datsyuk missed practice on Wednesday, sore from having blocked a shot the previous night, but was able to return for Thursday's gamea Valtteri Filppula recorded his 100th career NHL point with a second period assist. However, he left the game with an upper body injury not much later and did not returna It was the first of four meetings between the two teams this season. Detroit swept the four-game season series last year.