EDMONTON – J.F. Jacques may have been an unusual choice to join the Oilers top line but the experiment seems to be yielding some results.
Jacques was named first star with a goal and an assist and Tom Gilbert scored on a blast from the point 1:57 into overtime as the Edmonton Oilers snapped a four-game winless skid with a 5-4 victory over the Vancouver Canucks in the final pre-season contest for both teams Sunday.
Jacques, a 24-year-old who had three goals and four points playing on Edmonton’s top unit in five pre-season games, is something of a surprise fit with Ales Hemsky and Shawn Horcoff after only netting a single point in 60 previous NHL games with the Oilers.
Horcoff is enjoying seeing the Montreal native making the most of his opportunity.
“He’s been through a lot in the last few years with all the injuries he has had,” said Horcoff. “He has really worked hard this summer and has had a really good camp. It’s good to see a guy that has been putting in so much work get a chance like this.”
Jacques has been determined to make an impact in what will be his fifth season with Edmonton.
“It’s really helped a lot playing with those two guys,” he said. “I know what I have to do playing with them. They can both put the puck right on the tape of my stick. There are a couple of things I would like to have done a bit better in my first couple games but I feel my game is coming around. I’ve really tried to focus on my patience with the puck the last couple games. Overall, I am pretty happy with the camp that I have had.”
Mike Comrie had a pair and Horcoff also scored for the Oilers who finished the exhibition schedule with a 4-3-1 record.
Kyle Wellwood, Sami Salo, Henrik Sedin and Christian Erhoff responded for the Canucks, who had a strong pre-season, finishing 7-0-2.
Assistant captain Daniel Sedin said the solid pre-season should help the team get off to a good start when the games actually count.
“These games don’t really matter in the end, but it is always nice to get some wins,” he said. “We know the system really well and we all know that we can play it. We’re very confident going into the season. We have a great group of guys here and we all work really well together.”
Edmonton struck first eight minutes in as Hemsky circled the entire Vancouver zone before finally unleashing a shot on Canucks goalie Cory Schneider. Comrie was on the doorstep to deposit the rebound for his second of the pre-season and team-leading ninth point.
It took the Canucks exactly one minute to respond as Willie Mitchell made a nice feed to spring Wellwood on a breakaway and he undressed Edmonton starter Nikolai Khabibulin with a backhand to tie the game 1-1.
Comrie got his second goal of the game with five minutes left in the opening frame as Lubomir Visnovsky cut in front of the net before putting a perfect pass onto the tape of Comrie’s stick at the side of the net for his second of the game.
Two minutes later, the Oilers had a two-goal advantage on a power-play goal as Jacques sent a backhand pass through the crease to Horcoff who slammed home his third of the pre-season for a 3-1 lead after the first.
Vancouver cut into the lead with a power-play goal of its own early in the second as Salo unleashed a bullet from the top of the circle that beat Khabibulin high to the stick side.
The Canucks applied sustained pressure for a good portion of the first half of the period and it paid off with another power-play goal to even up the score 3-3 as Daniel Sedin feed it to brother Henrik Sedin at the side of the net and his hard shot clipped Khabibulin before fluttering into the goal.
Edmonton regained the lead with another power-play goal as a Sheldon Souray pass from the point deflected to Horcoff who quickly dished it to Jacques, who continued to look good on the first line with his third exhibition goal to put the Oilers ahead 4-3 after 40 minutes.
Vancouver tied it up just 1:16 into the third as Erhoff tipped a Cody Hodgson pass in for the Canucks’ third power-play goal in as many opportunities. The score stood at 4-4 into extra time.
Both teams will play their first regular season games against the Calgary Flames. The Canucks start the season in Calgary on Thursday while the Oilers don’t get underway until Saturday when they host the Flames.
Notes: Both teams have some big decisions to make in the next couple days to get down to regular season rosters. The Oilers are still carrying 34 players while the Canucks have 37 players still up with the big club. . . It was the third start for Edmonton’s big free agent acquisition, Khabibulin. After earning a shutout in his first appearance, Khabibulin struggled in allowing four goals over two periods to the Calgary Flames before leaving the game due to dehydration. . . Schneider made his second full pre-season start for the Canucks. In his first appearance, he earned a 5-4 victory in a shootout against the Flames at GM Place, making 13 saves on 17 shots. . . Three Oilers were unable to dress due to injury as Fernando Pisani, Marc Pouliot and Ethan Moreau were all on the limp.