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Game 81: Sweet send-off

by Daniel Fung / Vancouver Canucks
From the time the puck dropped for Saturday's game at Rexall Place, you could tell the Oilers wanted nothing more than to ensure that Ryan Smyth had a winning send-off in his final NHL game. The home team certainly accomplished their mission.

Five different skaters found the back of the net for Edmonton as the Oilers spanked the Canucks by a score of 5-2 in what was the season finale for Edmonton and the last game played by one of the Oilers' long-time faces of the franchise in Smyth.

Shawn Matthias and Zack Kassian had the goals for the Canucks, who watched their losing streak stretch to three games despite out-shooting the Oilers 42-22 on the night.

With the fans in attendance buzzing early on due to all the pomp and circumstance surrounding Smyth's final game, it didn't take the Oilers long to capitalize on the crowd's energy with Roman Horak and Jeff Petry giving Edmonton a 2-0 lead after the opening frame on just five shots against Jacob Markstrom, who was making his second straight start for Vancouver.

Will Acton would make it 3-0 for the home side at 2:14 of the middle frame before the Canucks would finally break the goose egg just over three minutes later with Kassian springing Matthias on a partial breakaway and Matthias getting a fortunate bounce after Oilers' netminder Ben Scrivens poke-checked the puck off his skate and into the net.

Jordan Eberle would restore Edmonton's three-goal lead on a power play with just 3:54 left in the second period and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins would end any realistic comeback hopes for the Canucks by stretching the lead to 5-1 at 1:35 into the final frame. Kassian would add a late marker with just 11 seconds left to round out the scoring.

As for Smyth, he had few noteworthy moments during the game aside from an inordinate amount of power play time as his teammates attempted to set him up for a goal that would have moved him into first place on the Oilers' all-time franchise list for most power play markers.

The most touching moments involving Smyth came late in the contest with time winding down as the Rexall Place faithful gave the Oilers' icon a lengthy standing ovation during the final TV timeout before Smyth was allowed to take to the ice for a final skate after the final horn sounded that included every member of the Canucks' players and staff returning from the locker room area to shake hands with the man of the hour.

The Canucks close out their season tomorrow night when they host the Calgary Flames at Rogers Arena. Puck drop is 6 pm with the Pat Quinn Ring of Honour ceremony getting underway at 5:45 pm.

Zack Kassian snapped a five-game goal drought with his late tally while Shawn Matthias snapped a seven-game goal drought with his marker... Michael Zalewski made his NHL debut for the Canucks finishing the night with two shots in 11:47 of ice-time... Ex-Canuck and current Oiler Steven Pinizzotto notched his first career NHL point on the opening goal by Roman Horak... Kevin Bieksa and Tom Sestito were healthy scratches, while Chris Higgins also did not suit up due to illness.

"C" YOU LATER: As part of his retirement game, Ryan Smyth got the privilege of donning the captain's "C" with regular captain Andrew Ference missing his eighth consecutive game due to injury. Smyth, who was appearing in his 84th career game against the Canucks and his 1270th overall career game, finished the night with 23:46 of ice-time, 7:10 of that coming on the power play which included a shift of 5:36 during an extended Edmonton man-advantage in the second period. Smyth concluded his career having amassed 23 goals and 52 points all-time against the Canucks.

#TANKNATION REJOICE: While we would never advocate doing anything other than cheer for the Canucks (through thick and thin, right?) those who are taking the ‘lose for a better pick’ approach will be happy to know Vancouver dropped to 25th in the league standings with their loss to the Oilers. Vancouver can finish no higher than 24th in the league standings and, if the Hurricanes beat the Flyers on Sunday afternoon (12 pm PT faceoff), then the Canucks’ game against the Flames later than night would be a true mean-nothing in the standings as Vancouver will have already clinched the 25th spot.

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