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Marchant's third-period strike the difference

3/5/2003

EDMONTON, Alberta (AP) -- It didn't take Ryan Smyth long to make
an impact for the Edmonton Oilers.

Smyth scored his 20th goal of the season and then set up
Todd Marchant's tiebreaker with 5:46 remaining as the Oilers ended their
nine-game winless streak with a 2-1 victory Tuesday night over the
San Jose Sharks.

"We needed this win,'' said Smyth, who injured his shoulder in
a 5-4 win over Toronto on Feb. 11. "There's some teams behind us
in the standings and (these were) some points that we needed.''

The win came as a huge relief for the Oilers, whose 0-5-2-2
drought began when Smyth was forced out of the lineup.

Edmonton is clinging to the eighth playoff spot in the Western
Conference and allowed Nashville, Los Angeles, Phoenix and Chicago
back into contention during their winless run.

"Right now, I think it's something that we needed,'' said
Marchant, who redirected Smyth's pass behind a helpless Miikka
Kiprusoff.

"Maybe this will get us going in the right direction.''

The return of Smyth, along with goalie Tommy Salo (groin) and
Mike York (broken wrist) should help the Oilers get back on track,
too.

Smyth made it 1-0 at 5:43 of the first by playing his typical
game. He screened Kiprusoff and tipped in a point shot from Eric
Brewer.

He finished with a plus-2 rating and five shots on goal.

"I was surprised, he came out and played very well,'' Oilers
coach Craig MacTavish said. "It's tough when you miss that much
time.''

Scott Hannan scored for the Sharks, who had just 16 skaters
dressed for the game.

San Jose forward Mike Ricci (back) and defenseman John Fahey
(head) were in the San Jose lineup but neither could play. Captain
Owen Nolan also sat out with back problems. The Sharks couldn't
call players up from their AHL affiliate in Cleveland in time for
the game.

"I thought the guys battled hard and I don't think it had
anything to do with it,'' defenseman Kyle McLaren said.

The Oilers hadn't won since the game in Toronto. Both Smyth and
captain Jason Smith were injured in that game and the Oilers'
longest winless streak since 1997 followed.

The Sharks tied it at 8:15 of the second period when Hannan --
left alone in front of Salo -- easily tapped in Vincent Damphousse's
pass from behind the net.

Salo made 26 saves, and Kiprusoff stopped 35 shots.

Kiprusoff needed to play well early, as the Oilers looked
charged coming out in the first period, outshooting the Sharks
12-4.

"He was excellent,'' Damphousse said.

The Oilers had a two-man advantage for 1:17 early in the second.
MacTavish called a timeout but the Oilers failed to extend their
lead.

Hannan tied it minutes later.

Game notes
Hall of Fame goalie Glenn Hall was at Skyreach Centre to
present the February Molson Cup Award to Salo. ... Members of the
group that recently set a world record for the longest hockey game
ever played were also on hand. Thirty-six skaters and four goalies
played for 80 consecutive hours last month. ... Smyth's goal was
his 20th of the season, the fifth time in his career he reached
that mark.