EDMONTON – The Edmonton Oilers finally have an example of what can happen when they play an entire game.
Dwayne Roloson stopped 23 shots to record his first shutout of the season as the Oilers finally put together a solid effort at home and perhaps their best game of the season, knocking off the Vancouver Canucks 3-0 on Saturday night.
“It was the first game all year where I can say that everybody played well,” said Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish. “It was the first real complete 60-minute game we have played all year. Normally there have been patches of the game where there are some poor performances but everybody did their job tonight. That was the first sign of a complete game by everyone this year.
“It was an important game for us. We are trying to work our way back into the divisional race and we definitely needed the game here tonight.”
Dustin Penner, Ales Hemsky and Robert Nilsson scored for the Oilers (14-12-2) who have won four of their last five and improved to .500 at home with a 4-4-2 record at Rexall Place.
Roloson said it was crucial to finally have this kind of effort at home.
“It was important to get a win like this, especially in our own building where we haven’t played our best hockey,” he said. “Tonight was probably one of our best games of the year. We played unbelievable.”
Oilers forward Shawn Horcoff gave Roloson a lot of the credit for the win.
“He played great,” he said. “He’s been awesome for us the last two or three weeks. He’s giving us a chance to win every night.”
The Canucks (16-11-3) finished off their season high seven-game road trip with a 2-4-1 record.
“I really don’t have one positive thing to say about this game,” said Canucks coach Alain Vigneault. “We got outplayed, we got out-everythinged in all areas. They deserved to win hands down and they did. We had two chances after 40 minutes. That’s quite impressive. That tells you a lot about our game tonight.”
Edmonton got off to a flying start in the contest with a goal just 49 seconds as Penner sent a hopeful backhand shot on net that Vancouver starter Curtis Sanford likely wishes he could have back.
The Oilers had a good opportunity to extend their lead midway through the first with an extended 5-on-3 man advantage but the Canucks penalty killers proved up to the task. Edmonton had nine first period shots to Vancouver’s four.
About a minute after a Shawn Horcoff shot clanged off the post, Edmonton took a two-goal lead. With 1:33 left to go in the second period and the teams playing 4-on-4, Hemsky led a 3-on-1 rush into the Canucks end and opted to shoot it himself, wiring a shot glove-side past Sanford.
Vancouver suffered a bit of a scare on the final play of the second as a Sheldon Souray bullet struck Kevin Bieksa on the cheek. Bieksa was slow to get up but did return for the third.
“It hit me in the side of the face, in the jaw,” he said. “I guess it got deflected or something. I was pretty lucky. I saw it at the last second and turned my face.”
Edmonton went ahead by three goals 2:21 into the third after catching a major break. Roloson was out of position after misplaying the puck behind the net and coughing it up to Ryan Kessler. But Kessler’s attempt to send the puck to the point instead gave Nilsson a clean breakaway and he made the most of it, deftly flicking it past Sanford.
MacTavish said Nilsson shouldn’t have even been in a position to take the puck in alone.
“He was under the impression we were still on the power play,” he said. “It was one of those Freudian slips where it looks like a stroke of genius but it could have had a different result. We got a break there.”
The Canucks return home to face the surging Florida Panthers on Sunday while Edmonton is idle until Tuesday when the Chicago Blackhawks visit.
Notes: Edmonton forward Robert Nilsson returned to the lineup after four games lost to a shoulder injury. Also coming down from the press box for the game were Jason Strudwick and Zack Stortini. Liam Reddox and Rob Schremp were healthy scratches Canucks defenceman Sami Salo appears to be close to returning but was still unable to suit up for Saturday’s game. Rob Davison took his place Daniel Sedin and Kevin Bieksa were held off the scoresheet, ending both of their point streaks at five games The Oilers and Canucks will get awfully used to seeing each other in the next couple weeks. Saturday’s match-up was one of three games between the two teams in a 13-day span.