The veteran winger scored a natural hat trick in a span of 2:01 early in the third period to cue an Edmonton Oilers comeback in a 6-4 win over the San Jose Sharks on Thursday night. The hurried hat trick broke Gretzky’s Oiler record for fastest three goals of 2:18 and also pushed Smyth over the 500-point mark in his NHL career.
“I just got on a good roll,” Smyth said. “Two of them were on the power play. I was just trying to help the team and contribute, not thinking about anything else. It turned out to be a pretty good one.”
San Jose was comfortably ahead 4-2 to start the third period before Kyle McLaren took a pair of penalties. Smyth scored on both power plays, just 19 seconds apart. He then added the game winner for his fifth career hat trick and fourth point of the night.
The last-minute heroics spoiled a hat trick by San Jose’s Jonathan Cheechoo and the Sharks attempts to gain a measure of revenge for being ousted by the Oilers in the second round of last season’s playoffs.
Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish felt that the record-breaking feat for Smyth couldn’t have happened for a more deserving player.
“Any time you beat one of the Great One’s records, it is a pretty good night,” he said, “Good for Ryan. For a guy that grew up idolizing Wayne to get one of his records, it couldn’t be placed in a better spot. I’m sure he would appreciate something like that.”
The Oilers move to 2-1 on the season while the Sharks drop to 3-1 in a game where they looked like they would have their first 4-0 start to the season in franchise history.
The Sharks know they let this one get away.
“We have to play smarter in the third period,” said Cheechoo. “When you blow a lead like that, that’s not what you want. That’s not how you win playoff games. You have to be able to protect a two goal lead at that point in the game. We had a few lapses.”
San Jose head coach Ron Wilson says he will view this game as a valuable lesson for his squad.
“We just didn’t have the poise to stop the bleeding and get the job done,” he said. “That happens every once in a while and I would rather it happened now than two months from now. It is a good learning experience and an opportunity for me to get everybody centred on what it takes to win at this level.”
The Oilers struck first in the match, just three minutes in, when a bouncing puck pinballed past San Jose goaltender Evgeni Nabokov.
Rookie Patrick Thoresen, the fifth Norwegian to ever play in the NHL, was credited with his first career regular season goal to give Edmonton the early lead.
But San Jose was quick to respond three minutes later when Cheechoo put a blistering shot from the slot past Edmonton goalie Dwayne Roloson to tie the game 1-1.
Less than two minutes later, Cheechoo scored his second of the game and the season on a two-man advantage to put the Sharks ahead 2-1 after the first.
Cheechoo continued to be the trigger-man for the Sharks in the second, scoring his third goal on the power play just over six minutes into the frame.
The Oilers got themselves into penalty trouble again just a couple minutes later, giving the Sharks another two-man advantage and once again they capitalized as Milan Michalek notched his fourth of the year.
Edmonton cut the Sharks’ edge to 4-2 with eight minutes remaining in the second. Joffrey Lupul picked up a big rebound on a Smyth shot and found the back of the net.
After Smyth’s hat trick, Ales Hemsky added an insurance goal with 15:28 left to make it 6-4.
The Sharks head to Vancouver for a game on Friday night while the Oilers now travel to Colorado to play the Avalanche on Saturday.
Notes: It was the first time the two teams have met since the Oilers defeated the Sharks four games to two in the second round of the playoffs. San Jose held a 2-0 series lead before the Oilers came roaring back to win four in a row to take the series in six games. . . . The Sharks had only allowed one power-play goal against in 18 opportunities before Thursday. . . . Prior to heading to Edmonton from Calgary the Sharks stopped off in Banff, Alta., where coach Ron Wilson introduced the team to curling.