EDMONTON – Hope remains alive in Edmonton.
Sam Gagner scored a goal and added two assists as the Oilers kept their slim playoff hopes alive with a 5-3 victory over the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday night.
Ales Kotalik, Denis Grebeshkov, Ales Hemsky and Sheldon Souray also scored for the Oilers (37-33-9) who snapped a three-game losing skid to move three points back of St. Louis and Nashville, tied for eighth in the Western Conference.
“It was a big win, for sure,” said Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish, who earned his 300th career win. “It buys us a little time and buys us a little hope and that’s all we could ask for going into the game tonight.”
The Oilers, who had lost six of their last seven, needed a solid victory to get out of their rut.
“It just feels good to win a game and to get some smiles around here,” said captain Ethan Moreau. “We just want those last two games against Calgary to mean something More for our own psyche than anything else.”
“We needed a win badly,” added Souray. “We played good tonight. It helped to get a goal early. We needed to get that monkey off our back and we did. Three games left and we will keep believing in here until we are finished.”
Mason Raymond, Kyle Wellwood and Alex Burrows replied for the Canucks (42-26-10), who suffered their first loss in regulation in their last five outings and missed out on an opportunity to move two points up on Calgary in the fight for first in the Northwest Division.
Vancouver head coach Alain Vigneault credited Oilers goalie Dwayne Roloson and his 43 saves with the Canucks’ loss.
“At the end of the day their goaltender played a real solid game,” he said. “In my mind he was the difference in this game. One thing that was uncharacteristic was when ever we got close we made mistakes that we don’t usually make and they found a way to put it in the back of our net, so they made us pay for our mistakes and we weren’t able to do the same thing.”
Edmonton got off to a quick start in this one with a goal just 27 seconds in as Kotalik picked up a rebound on a Shawn Horcoff shot and stuffed it past Vancouver starter Roberto Luongo.
The Oilers extended their lead to two goals eight minutes into the second period. Gagner’s wide shot bounced off the boards to Grebeshkov and he was able to hook the puck in while lying on his back after being knocked down in front of the net to make it 2-0.
Vancouver almost got on the scoreboard with nine minutes to play in the second as Wellwood’s shot snuck through Roloson’s legs in the crease but went just wide of the net.
Edmonton took the 2-0 lead into the third despite being out-shot 22-8 in the second period.
The Canucks finally got a goal seven minutes into the third as Mats Sundin sent a backhand to Raymond in front of the net and he was somehow able to stuff in it between Roloson and the post.
The Oilers regained the two-goal cushion midway through the third as Gagner scored a highlight reel goal, dancing past a pair of defenders and then deking out Luongo with a backhander to make it 3-1.
Vancouver pulled to within one again with seven minutes to play as Burrows was given a clear breakaway. Roloson made the initial save but Burrows was able to tuck in his own rebound for his 28th goal of the season.
But just two minutes later Edmonton struck again as Souray earned his 50th point of the year with a power-play blast to make it 4-2.
However the Canucks weren’t done yet, cutting the lead to one once more with just 1:37 to go on the power play as a sustained scramble in front of the Oilers net eventual ended up with Wellwood lifting the puck in.
But just 35 seconds later the Oilers finally put it away as Hemsky won a foot race to a loose puck and hooked it into the empty net.
The Canucks return home to face the Colorado Avalanche on Sunday while the Oilers next face Los Angeles on Tuesday.
Notes: It was the sixth and final meeting between the two teams. Both teams won three games. . . . Taylor Pyatt was not with the Canucks after returning home to Thunder Bay, Ont., in the wake of the death of his fiancee in a car crash in Jamaica earlier in the week. . . . Daniel and Henrik Sedin have combined for 14 game-winning goals this season for the Canucks with seven apiece. . . . A telling sign for the Oilers is the fact that bruiser Zach Stortini came into the match with as many goals in his last 19 games as a pair of the team’s top offensive threat have had in theirs. Stortini has five goals in his last 19 outings while Hemsky had three goals in his last 19 while and Horcoff had just a pair in his last 20. . . . The Canucks have certainly gotten around of late. Saturday’s game was their eighth straight in a different city, including Thursday’s game at home.