EDMONTON – It feels like the playoffs now in the Northwest Division.
Roberto Luongo made 33 saves as the Vancouver Canucks won their third in a row, cooling off the surging Edmonton Oilers 4-1 on Thursday night.
“I don’t think we had a great game tonight but we did what we had to do,” said Canucks forward Brendan Morrison. “We came into this game thinking that this was their season and we treated them that way.”
In addition to usual suspects like Daniel Sedin and Taylor Pyatt getting goals, role players like Trevor Linden and Matt Pettinger also found the back of the net, something defenceman Willie Mitchell felt was key.
“That’s the time of year. You are in tight goals and the team’s that get timely goals from guys that don’t usually get them are the teams that win. Legends are made off that in the playoffs, and to be honest in the Northwest the playoffs are right now. Hopefully that kind of thing continues.”
With the victory the Canucks (38-26-10) have now won six of their last eight and moved into a sixth place tie in the Western Conference, one point back of Northwest Division-leading Minnesota, a team they tangle with at home on Friday.
“It’s yet another big game,” said Morrison. “We always have tight games against Minny, chess matches. Special teams always play a big part.”
Added Luongo: “They are all big at this time of the year. That’s an important game. Hopefully we can feed off of what we did tonight.”
Tom Gilbert had the lone reply for the Oilers (37-33-5), who came into the game riding a run of three consecutive victories and 10 in their last 12 games.
Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish admits the loss hurt.
“It was very disappointing, the way the game went,” he said. “I didn’t think we played terribly”.
“The four or five chances they had all night were high quality chances and it was just one of those nights where the puck was finding the back of the net in our end and we put a lot of shots at him at the other end and didn’t have a lot to show for it.”
Edmonton remained five points out of eighth place in the West but are still in the hunt, facing eighth place Colorado on Saturday. The Avs lost 2-1 in Calgary on Thursday.
“It’s not as good a situation as we had hoped for and had in our power to create but there is still a Plan B and another scenario,” said MacTavish. “We have to sweep somebody here and now we focus on Colorado.”
Oilers defenceman Steve Staios says the team will have to find a way to dig deep and start another streak.
“We’ve been able to rebound from really disappointing results before,” he said. “It was a missed opportunity but it is over with now. You can’t beat yourself up right now. We have to look at that next game. We have to pick ourselves back and get back at it.”
The Canucks got a bit of a break to get the first goal of the game 1:09 into the second period as Oilers goalie Dwayne Roloson made the initial stop on a Daniel Sedin shot only to have defenceman Tom Gilbert inadvertently sweep it into his own net.
Vancouver took a 2-0 lead late in the middle frame as Pettinger went in on a 2-on-1, electing to shoot himself and beating Roloson high to the glove-side.
The Canucks extended their lead to three goals five minutes into the third as Ryan Shannon showed a little stick-handling razzle-dazzle before dishing a backhand pass to Pyatt, who snapped in his 15th of the season to give Vancouver the insurance they would need.
The Oilers finally broke Vancouver’s shutout bid with 10 minutes remaining as Gilbert’s point shot eluded Luongo, who was screened on the play, to make it 3-1.
Vancouver re-established its three-goal edge three minutes later. After it looked like Edmonton’s Ales Hemsky was tripped on the power play, the Canucks went on a 3-on-1 that lead to Linden’s second short-handed goal of the season to end thoughts of an Oiler comeback.
“Why there was no call there I don’t know,” MacTavish said. “If they thought Ales dove, they should have called both anyways. It was clearly a hook, slash or trip.”
Notes: It was the seventh meeting between the two clubs this season. They split the first six with all three of Edmonton’s win coming via the shootout. .Roloson, who backed up Mathieu Garon for 17 straight games, got his fourth straight start for the Oilers. .The Canucks were without rookie Mason Raymond, injured in their last game against Phoenix. Mason, expected to be out with an MCL sprain for four weeks, was replaced by Ryan Shannon. . Vancouver was already without defenceman Mattias Ohlund, Aaron Miller and Lukas Krajicek. .The Oilers hit 306 man-games lost this season with Ethan Moreau, Sheldon Souray, Shawn Horcoff and Raffi Torres out for the season and Geoff Sanderson recovering from a sore back.