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by Sunny Dhillon / Vancouver Canucks
When the only player Vancouver Canucks general manager Dave Nonis acquired on trade deadline day was Matt Pettinger, some Canucks fans loudly complained Vancouver had missed the boat and Pettinger wouldn’t make much of a difference.

Those fans aren’t saying very much right now. Probably because they can't talk with their feet jammed so firmly into their mouths.

Pettinger scored the game-winner late in the second period as his Vancouver Canucks dealt the Edmonton Oilers’ playoff hopes a serious blow by knocking off their Northwest Division rivals 4-1 Thursday night at Rexall Place.

The goal was Pettinger’s third since coming over from Washington. Pettinger lit the lamp just twice in 56 games with the Capitals, though both his ice time and his role diminished dramatically with a coaching change early in the season.

“I'm starting to feel more comfortable,” said the 27-year old Pettinger. “Obviously the first few games, you know, the adrenaline, coming to a new team, you know, it's hard but I feel comfortable out there and I'm getting used to the pace of the Western Conference there and, you know, just excited to move forward here and hopefully have a good playoff push.”

Pettinger’s goal was about anything but adrenaline. After Oilers centre Sam Gagner beat Brendan Morrison on a faceoff in the Vancouver end, Pettinger darted out to the point to take any thoughts of a slapshot away from Edmonton defenseman Steve Staios.

Then, as Staios resigned himself to playing the puck along the boards, Pettinger smartly pounced. He knocked the puck down, chipped it past Staios, and flew around him to set up a 2-on-1.

Using Markus Naslund as a decoy, Pettinger carried the puck into the Oiler zone and ripped a wrister from inside the circle that went post-and-in to give Vancouver an important 2-0 lead.

Pettinger now has four points in his last three games, two of which are goals. He and linemates Morrison and Naslund – who coincidentally were put together by Alain Vigneault three games ago – look more comfortable on the ice with each passing shift.

The move has taken pressure off any one line - whether it be the Twins or the suddenly sensational Kesler-Burrows tandem - and helped spread some potency evenly through the top three forward units.

That doesn't mean that the sudden offensive boon is the whole equation with the Edmonton native. In his first few games as a Canuck, Pettinger found himself on a shutdown line with Ryan Kesler and Alex Burrows.

While he’s been shifted to, arguably, a more offensive unit, his defense certainly hasn’t suffered. Pettinger has been a minus just twice in a Vancouver uniform and his role on the penalty kill is only growing. Against Edmonton, Petts logged 3:48 of ice-time on the PK and played a pivotal role in Vancouver keeping a hot Oilers' power play off the scoresheet.

But for his part, Pettinger was more interested in crediting his teammates than himself.

“Yeah, [Edmonton] definitely had some chances. Obviously, your best penalty killer is your goaltender and [Roberto Luongo] was there tonight for us. You know, some big blocks, [Kesler] at the end there, and when you can chip in offensively on the penalty kill too - with Trevor [Linden] there scoring the shorthanded goal, which was huge for us.”

“We were really tight on the penalty kill tonight," said Luongo. "We had a good box going and didn't have many cross-ice feeds and were able to keep them on the outside. When we do that, it's easier for me to track the shots."

Pettinger was pleased with the way his team battled through adversity in such a big game. The Canucks gave the Oilers three power plays in just the first period alone.

“We did run into some penalty trouble there. We addressed it, sort of, after the first period there. And obviously we knew they were hungry. This game was huge for them, huge for us and we're just happy that we came out with the two points.”

Beyond the points and the wins, Pettinger is just happy to be in Vancouver where playoffs success is a very real possibility for the first time in his career.

Not quite as happy as Canucks management who scooped up a solid roster player that's still under contract in exchange for a pending free-agent in Matt Cooke. And given the way some of the more flashy deadline deals have panned out - at least in the short term - it's easy for fans to agree.

1 – Goal for Daniel Sedin, who finally got the monkey off his back. Daniel hadn’t scored in 13 games heading into this one.

2 – Goals in two games for Taylor Pyatt, after he went 19 contests himself without lighting the lamp.

4-0-3 – Record for Vancouver against Edmonton this season.

24 – Minutes in penalties for the two teams combined. In their last meeting, there was 193 PIMs.

25:27 – Of ice-time for Willie Mitchell to lead all Canucks.

Vancouver got goals from players on each of its four forward units. Daniel for line one, Pyatt for line two, Pettinger for line three, Linden for line four. It’s hard to fathom this team losing anything if it gets such consistent scoring.

The defense was rock solid. Sure, Edmonton had 34 shots and Luongo was good, but he didn’t have to be spectacular. The Oilers didn’t generate many grade-A scoring chances and those they did were often broken up. Willie Mitchell was particularly good against Ales Hemsky.

The PP only had one chance and didn’t do much with it. But the PK killed off all six Edmonton opportunities and added a shorthanded goal to boot.
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