EDMONTON – It didn’t take long for the Edmonton Oilers to announce they were serious about rejoining the hunt for a playoff spot.
Taylor Hall had a hat trick as the Oilers scored early and often to make it three victories in a row for the first time this season, blowing past the Vancouver Canucks 4-0 on Saturday.
Devan Dubnyk made 23 stops for his second shutout of the season and Ladislav Smid also scored for the Oilers (14-13-7), who have gone 6-2-2 in their last 10 games.
Hall’s third goal also set an Oiler record as the fastest hat trick to start a game at 7:53, beating a standard of 12:38 set by Wayne Gretzky in 1986.
“It’s a pretty special moment that I will never forget,” Hall said. “Playing in an organization like this one, the records you are trying to break have been set by pretty legendary players.”
The Oilers are now in a four-team tie just one point back of eighth-seed St. Louis in the Western Conference playoff race.
“We’re a whole different team right now,” said Oilers head coach Ralph Krueger. “You can see the dynamics of the group evolving these last 10 games and the confidence level going up.
“The position we were in, almost out of it three games ago, and now we are right back at the line.”
Hall said it is great to see his team right in the thick of the battle for a playoff spot.
“There are so many ups and down during the season and when the lows are really low you have to remember times like this,” he said. “You just go on a bit of a tear and you never know what spot you could end up in. We’re really excited to be playing meaningful games right now and we have to make use of them.”
The Canucks (19-10-6) meanwhile saw a six-game winning streak come to an end.
“At the start of the game it just seemed like they were in fifth gear and we were in third gear,” said Canucks goalie Cory Schneider, who was yanked after allowing two goals on the first two shots of the game. “I don’t (know) the reason for that. It was an ugly first 10 minutes, but after that we had some push-back and settled the game down. Unfortunately the damage had been done already.
“Maybe it’s a good wakeup call for us.”
Edmonton was unstoppable to begin the game, scoring on their first three shots.
The Oilers got to Schneider very quickly in the contest, scoring just 16 seconds in on the first shot of the game.
Hall was able to come in wide with speed for a breakaway and blasted a shot glove-side over Schneider’s shoulder for an early 1-0 Edmonton lead.
The Oilers scored on their second shot as well just over two minutes in as Smid scored a rare goal on a shot from the point to make it 2-0 before many fans had taken their seats. Roberto Luongo came in to replace Schneider, who had allowed just six goals over Vancouver’s last six games and had a pair of shutouts in that span.
Luongo didn’t fare much better as the Oilers then scored on their third shot of the game 2:43 into the first period. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins fed it through to a hard-charging Hall, who sent his second of the game stick-side past the Canucks backup.
It was the fastest three goals from the start of the game in Edmonton’s franchise history, breaking the record of three in 3:25 against Colorado in 1981.
Edmonton was far from done yet, making it 4-0 before eight minutes had elapsed on their fifth shot as Hall earned his third career hat trick, stuffing it between Luongo’s legs from the side of the net on the power play.
The Oilers had 11 first-period shots to 10 from the Canucks on Dubnyk.
Edmonton was coming back for more with eight minutes gone in the second frame but Luongo was able to make a huge glove save on a tip by Lennart Petrell.
There was no scoring in the second period, as Vancouver continued to lead on the shot clock 18-14.
Hall came very close to getting his fourth goal of the game with seven-and-a-half minutes left in the third period but Luongo made a desperate diving save to keep the puck out of the net.
There was no scoring in the third period either, as the Oilers clamped down the lid on defence.
Both teams return to action on Monday as the Oilers play host to the Calgary Flames and the Canucks travel to San Jose to face the Sharks.
Notes: It was the third of five meetings between the two divisional rivals this season, having split the previous two games, each win coming for the road team. Vancouver picked up a 3-2 overtime win in the most recent match-up in February, its fifth victory in the past six games against Edmonton and 14th in the last 19 overall … Despite struggling to score goals of late, Daniel Sedin still leads the Canucks in goals scored with 10 … Vancouver forwards Zack Kassian (back) and Dale Weise (shoulder) were both out of the lineup, as was defenceman Keith Ballard (foot) was also absent with a minor foot fracture … Oilers forward Eric Belanger remained out with a groin injury … Oilers forward Sam Gagner, who recorded his 250th point on Thursday, played in his 400th career NHL game.