EDMONTON – The Nuge was huge, but the Vancouver Canucks got the last laugh.
Sami Salo scored two goals as the Canucks overcame a hat-trick from Edmonton Oiler rookie sensation Ryan Nugent-Hopkins to win 4-3 in NHL action Saturday.
The Finnish defenceman scored twice while Henrik Sedin and Alexandre Burrows added one goal each.
Vancouver, trying to break out of an early season slump, is now 2-2-1 on the year. The Oilers fell to 1-1-1.
“We find ways to win games,” said Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo, who stopped 23 of 26 shots.
“It’s just that comfort level I think the guys have. Going into the third no matter what the score is we feel we can win.”
Salo capitalized on a turnover in the Oilers zone midway through the third period to rip a wrist shot from the high slot that zipped under the stick-side arm of goalie Devan Dubnyk.
That broke a 3-3 tie in a game that saw the Oilers take the play to Vancouver and outshoot them 30-26.
The win also overshadowed a breakout performance from Nugent-Hopkins, the No. 1 pick overall in last summer’s entry draft.
The 18-year-old from Burnaby, B.C., took charge early.
With the Oilers down 1-0, Nugent-Hopkins took a pass from Jordan Eberle at the side of the crease and got three whacks at the puck on Luongo. He knocked it out of the air on the third try to put it in for his second goal of the season at 13:44.
He gave the Oilers the lead with half a minute to go in the period.
Defenceman Tom Gilbert wristed the puck from the point and Nugent-Hopkins redirected the shot on the backhand from the face off dot past Luongo.
His third goal came on a wrist shot form in close through a jumble of players in front of Luongo on a power play late in the second period.
The replay suggested teammate Taylor Hall finally knocked the puck over the goal line, but the referees awarded the goal to Nugent-Hopkins.
When the goal was announced a minute later, the referees were forced to whistle the play dead as delirious fans showered the ice with hats.
“I definitely didn’t expect to have that kind of a start. I just want to keep it going,” said Nugent-Hopkins.
His goal, he said, has been to crash the net and see what happens.
“The message from the coaches was to go hard into the blue paint and I’ve been trying to do that,” he said.
After his third goal, the euphoria was short lived.
With just 15 seconds left in the second period, Vancouver forward Daniel Sedin swooped around the back of the net and passed it to Burrows in front for tip-in goal to make it 3-3 and set the stage for the third period winner.
Vancouver opened the scoring at 8:49 of the first period.
With Oiler forward Ryan Smyth in the penalty box for tripping, Salo took advantage of a scramble in front of the Oilers net to tee up the puck in the high slot and hammer it low past the glove of Dubnyk.
The Canucks tied the game early in the second period with two Oilers in the penalty box.
On a scramble in front of Dubnyk, Henrik Sedin whacked the puck out of the air and then hit it just over the goal-line just past Dubnyk’s outstretched left goal pad for the Swede’s second goal of the year.
Notes: It was a tough night for Oiler winger Darcy Hordichuk. Prior to the game, the former Canuck tough guy told his teammates to keep their heads up. Instead it was Hordichuk who got knocked out early in the first period with knee injury when he tried to run over Keith Ballard but ended up getting knocked flying over Ballard’s outstretched hip…Oiler forward Linus Omark went down in the third period after he took a slapshot from teammate Andy Sutton off the face…Oilers winger Ales Hemsky did not suit up for the game, awaiting results on an MRI for a sore shoulder….. The schedule heats up now for the Oilers. They’ll play eight games in the next two weeks.