VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) _ The Vancouver Canucks continued to prove they can win without star forward Todd Bertuzzi.
Mike Keane scored two goals to help Vancouver win the Northwest Division with a 5-2 victory over Edmonton on Saturday night, eliminating the Oilers from playoff contention.
After winning just one of the first seven games following Bertuzzi's season-ending suspension for a blindside punch on Colorado's Steve Moore, the Canucks rallied to win their final six and clinch their first division title since 1993.
``There were a lot of doubts creeping into people's minds here but the guys in the room believed we could do it,'' said Brendan Morrison after recording a goal and an assist. ``It was just a matter of going out and proving it. It took us a little while to get over the whole issue and deal with the adversity of what happened with Bert, but I think it's made us a stronger group.''
Markus Naslund and Mattias Ohlund also scored for the Canucks, who locked up the third seed in the Western Conference playoffs.
The loss by the Oilers, who got goals from Brad Isbister and Igor Ulanov, gave Nashville its first playoff berth. Edmonton missed the playoffs despite losing in regulation for just the second time in their final 19 games.
``All that work that we've done for the last two months has sort of gone down the drain,'' Oilers forward Ryan Smyth said. ``We're really happy with the drive, but this is going to hurt for a while.''
Edmonton remained tied with Nashville at 89 points, but the Predators got in on a tiebreaker despite losing 4-1 to St. Louis.
``It's tough to swallow,'' Smyth added.
Dan Cloutier, starting his second straight game after beating San Jose 4-1 Friday night, made 24 saves as Vancouver finished the season with 101 points. Colorado is two points back with one game left, but Vancouver has the tiebreaker, ending the Avalanche's record run of nine-straight division championships.
The Canucks lost the Northwest title to Colorado on the final day of last season after blowing a late-season lead.
``It's pretty special just the way things turned out last year and the way we battled back after some real strange adversity this year,'' Trevor Linden said. ``We were counted out two weeks ago and as a team we knew we had to run the table and win six straight and we were able to do it.''
Keane and Isbister exchanged goals four minutes apart in the first period before Naslund put the Canucks ahead for good on a disputed goal with 2:12 left in the period.
The goal light went on after Naslund's one-timer from the side of the crease, but the referee didn't signal a goal until Naslund poked it over the line a few seconds later _ sparking a melee in front of the net. With the Oilers still arguing, a video review showed the puck had trickled across the line behind Conklin before Naslund's final nudge, giving the Canucks' captain his 35th goal of the season and third in the last four games.
Keane added his second goal on a two-on-one break with Trevor Linden 13:42 into the second, keeping the puck and snapping a perfect wrist shot from the right faceoff circle over Conklin's outstretched glove.
``We were stressing shots and it just went in,'' Keane said after matching his single-game career high.
Morrison made it 4-1 with 31 seconds left in the second period, but Ulanov closed the gap again with a power-play goal at 4:14 of the third.
The Oilers got another late power play after successfully calling for an illegal stick measurement on Martin Rucinsky. But it ended when Raffi Torres got a five-minute major for boarding Keane.
Ohlund rounded out the scoring with 2:16 left on the ensuing power play.
``I think we proved we can play at a real high level and we can compete,'' Keane said. ``If you're third in the Western Conference it shows you can compete.
|Mike Keane (7) ASST: Mattias Ohlund (20), Brent Sopel (32)|
1 - 0 VAN
|Brad Isbister (10) ASST: Alexei Semenov (3), Fernando Pisani (14)|
1 - 1 Tie
|Markus Naslund (35) ASST: Brendan Morrison (38), Matt Cooke (12)|
2 - 1 VAN
|Mike Keane (8) ASST: Brad May (6), Marc Bergevin (10)|
3 - 1 VAN
|Brendan Morrison (22) ASST: NONE|
4 - 1 VAN
|PPG - Igor Ulanov (5) ASST: Adam Oates (16), Mike York (26)|
4 - 2 VAN
|PPG - Mattias Ohlund (14) ASST: Trevor Linden (22), Jarkko Ruutu (8)|
5 - 2 VAN
|Markus Naslund Hooking|
|Jarkko Ruutu Interference|
|Sami Salo Cross checking|
|Igor Ulanov Slashing|
|Martin Rucinsky Cross checking|
|Martin Rucinsky Illegal stick|
|Raffi Torres Boarding (maj)|
|Raffi Torres Game misconduct|