The Edmonton Oilers ended a disappointing season on a happy note.
The Oilers left the Rexall Place ice Saturday with cheers ringing in their ears after rookie Nail Yakupov's first NHL hat trick powered them to a 7-2 victory against the Vancouver Canucks. All three goals came in the third period, when the Oilers scored five times in a span of 3:35 to blow open a close game.
Jordan Eberle scored twice, rookie defenseman Justin Schultz had a goal and two assists and Jerred Smithson had the other goal for the Oilers. Edmonton (19-22-7) ended the season with back-to-back victories after a stretch in which it dropped nine of 10 on the way to missing the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the seventh consecutive season.
"We started doing what we wanted to do all year in the last two games," Schultz said. "It's what we'll carry forward to next year."
Vancouver captain Henrik Sedin dressed and played one 22-second shift, enough to extend his consecutive games-played streak to 629.
The Canucks lost two in a row and four of their last six to end the regular season. Their next game will be the opener of their first-round playoff series against the San Jose Sharks.
"We played against them two years ago in a very close series," Henrik Sedin said, referring to the Canucks' five-game win in the 2011 Western Conference Finals. "They are built like a lot of other teams in this conference. They are big, they have got some very skilled guys. So it’s going to be tough."
With Vancouver starter Cory Schneider sidelined due to injury, Roberto Luongo was torched for all seven goals. Afterwards, coach Alain Vigneault said he still didn't know who would start Game 1 against the Sharks.
“No,” he said. “If Schneids is healthy he's going to play. If he's not, we have total confidence in Roberto.
Yakupov got his first of the night when he flipped Schultz's rebound past Luongo early in the third period during a 5-on-3 advantage to make it 2-1. Sestito banged the rebound of Kevin Bieksa's shot past Devan Dubnyk two minutes later to tie the game.
Taylor Hall's no-look backhand passout found Schultz at the top of the crease at 13:17 to put the Oilers ahead to stay. Yakupov got his second of the night 59 seconds later after a misplay by Luongo behind his own net, and Eberle got his second of the game just 21 seconds after that.
Yakupov completed the hat trick a little over a minute later when picked up a rebound in front and lifted a backhander into the net for his 17th of the season, tops among all NHL rookies.
"The sky is the limit for this kid," Oilers captain Shawn Horcoff said.
Smithson beat Luongo from the slot at 16:42 to complete the onslaught, though Vigneault absolved his goaltender of any blame for the rout.
"He played a real strong game and then in the third period when we gave them that 5-on-3 they just took the game over," Vigneault said. "They had so many chances, I don't know where I should start. That 5-on-3 gave them momentum, we made some mistakes and they had the momentum, the tempo and we couldn't get it back."
Despite the season-ending blowout win, the reality is that the Oilers are headed for the draft lottery again -- they've had the No. 1 pick in the NHL Draft in each of the past three years.
"As nice as this win is, we leave the season with a lot of pain in our stomachs that we'll look to use to get better," Oilers coach Ralph Krueger said.
Material from team and national media was used in this report.