Epic comeback? Or epic collapse?
Actually, it was a little of both in the Edmonton Oilers' wild 5-4 shootout victory over the New Jersey Devils on Monday.
Trailing 3-0 with 15 minutes to go against one of the best shutdown teams in the NHL, the Oilers looked be dead and buried.
However, Edmonton responded with an eight-minute, four-goal rally that caused a crowd eruption at Rexall Place.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, in his first game back after shoulder surgery last spring, began the comeback with a power-play goal at 5:43 of the third period. Andrew Ference cut New Jersey's lead to 3-2 on a screened shot from the point at 9:28. David Perron tied it at 11:47, and Taylor Hall put Edmonton ahead 4-3 at 13:30.
The Devils weren't about to leave all the drama to the Oilers, though. New Jersey brought the building to dead silence when center Patrik Elias scored short-handed with 53 seconds left to force overtime and then the shootout.
The plot twists continued in the shootout, where Edmonton backup Jason LaBarbera outdueled future Hall of Famer Martin Brodeur.
Jordan Eberle and Perron scored for Edmonton in the tiebreaker. New Jersey's Damien Brunner shot wide in the first round of the shootout, and LaBarbera stopped a backhand shot from Ryane Clowe to seal the win.
"We just stuck together as a team," Nugent-Hopkins said. "We knew that we needed to be better. We came out and we played hard. It just shows what happens when you do that.
"It was a gritty effort. We have it in here, we just have to put it together for a full 60 (minutes)."
New Jersey (0-1-2) put it together for a 40 minutes, forcing the fast and energetic Oilers (1-2-0) into a slow, tight-checking chess match, but it wasn't enough.
"We know their type of game, and we prepared for it the last couple of days," Elias said. "They're a young team, they skate well and move well and challenge you individually. We feel our style can work against them, but we have to do it."
For longer than two periods, as it turned out.
"First two games, we did some good things and some bad things, and we're trying to tweak that," Elias said. "We have four or five new guys here, and it affects the game, no question about it, so you try to get that fixed right away and focus on the little things.
"You have to trust each other because of the way we play, and when you have new guys and they're not used to it, you're a little out of sync."
A goaltending battle that the Oilers ultimately won didn't start out well for Edmonton. Oilers coach Dallas Eakins, starting LaBarbera in place of the struggling Devan Dubnyk, watched New Jersey score on two of its first five shots (Jaromir Jagr at 2:59 and Brunner at 8:01)
The bewildered Oilers didn't get their first shot until 12:02 of the opening period.
They settled down after that, applying decent pressure and almost scoring on a power play, but they trailed 2-0 at the first intermission.
Michael Ryder's goal early in the second made it 3-0 at the second intermission.
"I just like the way it was in the room," Perron said. "I thought the roof was going to come down, but everyone seemed pretty calm. I thought ... this isn't normal. I wasn't used to that. But we went out there and showed the character that we had.
"It's tough to explain, but I'm glad we bounced back the way we did because 0-3 would have been pretty tough to start the year."
LaBarbera stopped 21 of 25 shots in regulation and overtime. Brodeur finished with 23 saves.
NOTES: The Oilers made LW Ryan Smyth a healthy scratch as Eakins kept his promise to keep players accountable, regardless of their experience, history or contract size. ... With the return of Nugent-Hopkins, Taylor Hall moved from center to his usual spot on the left wing. ... LW Jesse Joensuu, one of Edmonton's most consistent forwards in the first two games, sat out the third with back spasms. ... The Devils fell to 6-1-2 in games at Edmonton. ... Jagr, with 1,689 points, and Elias, with 931, are the NHL's first- and eighth-leading scorers among active players. ... Jagr needs one more game-winning goal to move into first place on the NHL's all-time list. He is tied with Phil Esposito with 118.