VANCOUVER – ancouver Canucks forward Andrew Ebbett scored twice in the first period and only got two shifts in the second.
The 28-year-old had his career-best goal output overshadowed by a scary second-period hit that left Edmonton Oilers defenseman Alex Plante bloodied, and knocked both him and Canucks forward Dale Weise out of the game.
After sparking a 5-3 win against the Oilers at Rogers Arena on Monday night, though, Ebbett was only worried about the goals and the result. As he tries to earn a permanent job, that's all that matters. After 152 NHL games over six seasons with five teams, a little extra time on the bench isn't an issue.
"I already have two goals, so I'm not going to get too frustrated about it tonight," he said with a big smile of watching most of a wild, special teams-filled second period from the bench. "It was tough, but me and (Canucks coach Alain Vigneault) have had those discussions before, where sometimes that's going to happen when there are power plays and penalties. And I'm happy with the role I have right now."
For now, that role includes a guaranteed spot in the lineup with just 12 healthy forwards on the roster. On Monday night it also included a promotion from the fourth to the third lines, one Ebbett quickly took advantage of. He wasn't even facing the net when Chris Higgins' shot bounced off an Oilers defender and his leg and past a helpless Nikolai Khabibulin 3:11 into the first period. But he lunged headfirst towards it to knock Jannik Hansen's 2-on-1 feed past the sprawling goalie for his first two-goal game.
"It gives you a little more confidence when you come to the rink in the morning and know you are in the lineup," he said. "I'm looking at this opportunity to prove I deserve a top-12 spot the rest of the season."
Daniel Sedin also scored in an opening period dominated by the Canucks, who wasted little time erasing memories of a poor pre-Christmas effort in a loss to Calgary by outshooting the Oilers 13-5 in the first period. Things turned slightly, though, after Weise hammered Plante into the boards in the second.
Called up from the AHL earlier in the day because Ryan Whitney is struggling with tendinitis, the 6-foot-3 Oilers' rookie was chasing the puck back into his own end along the right boards, and appeared to turn to make a drop pass just as Weise went to hit him on the back of the left shoulder. Weise, who was coming from the left and slightly behind, sent Plante face first into the glass, leaving a pool of blood behind.
Plante didn't return, but said, "I'm OK" in a brief locker room exchange before declining to speak further to reporters. Either way, Oilers coach Tom Renney indicated Weise, who received a five-minute major for charging and a game misconduct, should be suspended.
"There are lacerations and all kinds of stuff. He's got a sore head," Renney said of Plante before turning his attention to Weise. "Pretty tough hit. There should be a little sabbatical. He had a pretty good head of steam on him and he was after one thing, and that was the hit. He was about four feet away from the boards and (Weise) came in and hammered him pretty hard with one objective."
The Canucks coach saw it differently.
"It was a shoulder-on-shoulder hit," Vigneault said. "It's unfortunate that young man got hurt, but this is a physical contact game and sometimes stuff happens on the ice."
As for Weise, he was apologetic and a bit uncertain about a hit he expects to generate a call from NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan. Mostly, he hoped Plante, who he played with as a kid, was OK.
"Anytime you are a couple feet from the boards it's kind of a vulnerable spot, but it's kind of that gray area where you gotta protect yourself," Weise said. "Things happen so fast. I thought I caught him on the shoulder and he went in a vulnerable position. I respect the call. The game is so fast now. I was getting in and just trying to angel him off and caught him in a vulnerable position."
No matter how they saw the hit, most agree the ensuing five-minute power play decided the outcome.
Jordan Eberle and Ryan Smyth scored on the man advantage, but the Oilers also allowed Ryan Kesler to set up Alex Burrows' shorthanded goal on the same power play -- it later became the game-winning goal -- and lost for the fifth time in six games, falling to 5-11-1 on the road this season.
"That was the difference in the game," Renney said.
"We had a chance getting the five-minute power play," added Khabibulin, who finished with 21 saves. "That's unacceptable in a game like this when you're down by three. I know we got one right back, but that's the difference. We score two goals on the five-minute power play, but they get one and we're down by two. It's quite different."
Kesler -- on a nice pass from Burrows to return the favor -- and Edmonton defenseman Cory Potter swapped third-period goals less than two minutes apart for the Canucks, and Roberto Luongo finished with 18 saves as the club improved to 8-2-1 in their last 11 games and leapfrogged Minnesota for the top spot in the Northwest Division.
"I think that's where we belong," Burrows said. "In this locker room, that's where we believe we belong."