VANCOUVER – The Edmonton Oilers might have done the Vancouver Canucks a favour Saturday night.
The NHL’s bottom feeders defeated the Presidents’ Trophy winners 4-1 to remind the Canucks that there will be no guarantees when the playoffs start.
The Oilers scored two goals with the man advantage against the NHL’s best penalty-kill unit and held the league’s top power play off the scoresheet. An Edmonton team that is out of the playoffs showed more emotion and intensity than a Canucks club considered a Stanley Cup contender.
“It’s about pride,” said defenceman Kurtis Foster, who scored one power-play goal and assisted on another.
“Every guy in here had pride and every guy is playing for next year.”
Goaltender Devan Dubnyk , who made 40 saves, said it felt good to be David in this battle against a Goliath.
“This is the best team in the league, and we beat them,” said Dubnyk, who made some key first-period stops to keep Edmonton in the game.
“You come into a game like this and nobody expects you to have a chance. You take that as motivation. It’s that much more important to be ready to play for the entire game and we did that.”
The game meant nothing in the standings for Vancouver, who will finish the season with the best record in the NHL. But it showed the Canucks they must keep playing a high-tempo, puck-movement game if they hope to be successful in the playoffs.
“This is kind of a good thing, I think,” said Canucks forward Raffi Torres, a former Oiler. “We need to humble ourselves a little bit.
“Things have been going almost too good lately. It’s good for us to go through some stuff like this.”
The Canucks weren’t awful against Edmonton. They were just a little off.
Vancouver gave up odd-man rushes. The defence was sloppy. The Canucks didn’t win the battles along the boards. Passes weren’t crisp. And for the third consecutive game Vancouver gave up the first goal.
“We were a little off on everything we did,” said Canucks captain Henrik Sedin. “We haven’t had too many games where we beat ourselves. This was one of them.”
Linus Omark had a goal and an assist as Edmonton snapped an 11-game slide.
Jordan Eberle and Magnus Paajarvi also scored for the injury-riddled Oilers, who weren’t intimidated by the powerhouse Canucks. Andrew Cogliano added two assists as Edmonton beat Vancouver for the first time in five games this season.
Teemu Hartikainen had one assist and missed scoring on a penalty shot in the second period when he shot wide.
It was just the second time in 12 games the Oilers scored three or more goals.
Coach Tom Renney sounded like a proud father when talking about his young, rebuilding team.
“Those guys played their guts out,” said Renney. “This (Vancouver) is the best team in the NHL and we get a chance to put our young guys through the acid test. We are growing up before people’s eyes and, I think, are gaining the respect that we deserve.”
Alex Burrows replied for the Canucks, who outshot the Oilers 41-34.
Vancouver saw a five-game win streak end. The loss was just the second in 14 games for the Canucks, who wrapped up the league’s best regular-season record with a win over the Los Angeles Kings Wednesday night.
The Canucks, who lead the league at 52-18-9 for 113 points, have scored more goals than any other team and allowed the least.
The battered-and-bruised Oilers are last in the league with a 24-43-11 record for 59 points. Heading into Saturday, Edmonton had scored the third fewest goals and allowed the most.
Injuries to Taylor Hall, Ales Hemsky, Shawn Horcoff and Ryan Whitney have cost Edmonton their top line and best defenceman.
Canucks goaltender Cory Schneider hesitated when asked if Vancouver took the Oilers lightly.
“I’m not sure if some guys did or not,” said Schneider, who looked soft on Eberle’s goal. “I tried not to.”
Canuck coach Alain Vigneault praised the Oilers.
“They were the better team tonight,” he said.
“For whatever reason we looked a little bit emotionally and physically not as crisp and sharp as we usually are.”
Defenceman Kevin Bieksa said the Canucks were frustrated by the loss, but not devastated.
“We’re not going to bury our heads in the sand and say the season’s over,” he said. “We will learn from it and move forward.”
Omark scored the prettiest goal of the night in the second period to give Edmonton a 3-0 lead.
Hartikainen took a pass from Cogliano and drove for the net. With the Canuck defence collapsing on him, Hartikainen threw the puck out to Omark, who had a wide-open net to shoot at.
The Canucks had several good scoring chances in the first period, but Dubnyk they couldn’t beat. He gloved a Bieksa slapshot from the point, then blocked a Mason Raymond blast from the slot. Raymond also banked a shot off the crossbar.
Canucks forward Tanner Glass, just returning from a rib injury, had a spirited second-period fight with Jean-Francois Jacques.
The teams play again Tuesday night in Edmonton.
“It will be nice to get back there, play in their rink, and give them our A game,” said Bieksa.
Notes: Daniel Sedin is one of 10 Swedish-born players to score 100 or more points in a season. Twin brother Henrik joined the club last season with 112 points. … By winning 13 games in March the Canucks won the most games in a month in team history. … To make room for Glass’s return, centre Alex Bolduc was sent back to the AHL’s Manitoba Moose. … Attendance was 18,860.