EDMONTON – It’s far too late to do any good for this season, but the Edmonton Oilers are on a bit of a roll.
Tom Gilbert had a goal and an assist as the Oilers continued to make a surprise late surge, winning their third in a row with a 3-2 victory over the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday. Robert Nilsson and Andrew Cogliano also scored for the last-place Oilers (24-42-7) who were coming off consecutive wins over Detroit and San Jose and have now won seven of their last nine at home.
Cogliano, who had the game winner on a shot that normally wouldn’t have gone in, said the Oilers caught Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo on an off night.
“He was struggling,” he said. “He struggled early in the first and I just threw it at the net and it somehow found its way in. He’s one of the top goalies in the league and that’s not going to happen often, but when it does, you take them and run.”
Oilers head coach Pat Quinn credited his own goalie Jeff Deslauriers, who started with Devan Dubnyk missing the game with an illness, for being a major factor with 31 saves.
“He was really sharp tonight and confident and in mental control,” he said. “Our guys battled hard all night long and I like how they played around him. But he was good all night long. He was our best player.”
Mason Raymond and Daniel Sedin replied for the Canucks (44-25-4) who have lost two in a row after going 7-2-1 in their previous 10.
Luongo took much of the blame for the latest loss on his own shoulders after allowing three goals on 22 shots including a pair of soft ones.
“I made some good saves but unfortunately I should have had all three of their goals,” he said. “I’ve got to find some consistency in my game. It was a bad game every 12 games or so but now it is every two or three games. I have to get my swagger back.”
Vancouver head coach Alain Vigneault credited his goalie for admitting he was off his game early on.
“The one thing about Roberto is that he takes responsibility for his performance,” he said. “All three goals tonight I am sure he would like to have back. That said we had plenty of Grade A chances to tie it up and we didn’t.
“Right now he is fighting with a bit of a consistency issue. Some athletes will go through that in their career.”
The Canucks are currently five points ahead of Colorado for first place in the Northwest Division.
Edmonton started the scoring on its first shot, just three minutes in, on a play Luongo would love to have back as Gilbert snuck out from the corner and lifted a puck on net that somehow snuck between Luongo’s pad and the post.
“I was as surprised as he was when that puck went in,” Gilbert said. “I was just trying to get the puck on net, actually I was trying to get rebound and I think it kind of threw him off guard too.”
Four minutes later it was 2-0 as Nilsson fought off Christian Ehrhoff and cut in on net to score his 11th of the season.
That goal seemed to wake Vancouver up as they dialled up the pressure and finally beat Deslauriers with seven minutes to play in the first. Michael Grabner slid the puck through the top of the crease to Raymond, who had a wide open net to shoot it into to make it 2-1 after the opening period.
Edmonton regained it’s two goal edge eight minutes into the second period on another gift goal from Luongo as Cogliano fluttered a shot from the top of the faceoff circle that slipped through the Canuck goalie’s legs.
Vancouver narrowed the gap once again with four minutes left in the second period as Henrik Sedin sent a pass through to brother Daniel on the other side of the net during a scramble in front and he hammered home his 200th career NHL goal to make it a 3-2 game heading into the scoreless third.
Kyle Wellwood had a pair of wonderful chances in the third stolen away by Deslauriers, who made a quick glove stop on him with 12 minutes to go in the final frame and then another stellar pad save with two minutes remaining.
Dubnyk, who had captured his first two NHL wins in the Oilers last two outings, came down with a case of the flu on Tuesday morning and the team opted to keep him under quarantine, setting off a frantic search for a backup goalie for Deslauriers.
With their usual emergency backup plan of bringing in a netminder from the University of Alberta unavailable, the Oilers called in Nathan Deobald, a five-foot-eight, third-string goalie with the University of Calgary that has only played one game for the Dinos this year.
Considered in the search was Shannon Szabados, goaltender for Canada’s Olympic champion women’s team, but she was not contacted.
The Canucks return home to host Anaheim on Wednesday while the Oilers next conclude their four game homestand against the Ducks on Friday.
Notes: Oilers forward Ales Hemsky finally resumed skating on Monday after season-ending shoulder surgery and reports that his recovery progress is going well… Vancouver forward Pavol Demtira missed the game due to personal reasons. Mason Raymond took his spot on the second line… Defenceman Dean Arsene was called up by Edmonton to replace injured Theo Peckham for the match… It was the sixth and final meeting between the two teams with Edmonton winning the first game before Vancouver bounced back to win the next four… It was the Canucks first road game since their epic 14-game road trip surrounding the Winter Olympics in Vancouver.