Opening post-holiday play at Rogers Arena, the Canucks battled back from a two goal deficit to defeat the visiting Oilers 3-2 Sunday night.
It was down to the wire, overtime looming, but a late goal from Kevin Bieksa with 24 seconds left in the final frame sealed the deal.
A long pass from Alex Burrows behind the Edmonton net connected with Bieksa at the point. The Vancouver d-man fired a shot that found its way past a screened Nikolai Khabibulin, sending the stadium into deafening celebrations.
After a scoreless opening period, both teams came out in the second gunning for the first marker. It was Edmonton that struck first with Ryan O'Marra burying a cross-ice pass for his first NHL goal. Just under five minutes later, Oilers defenceman Ryan Whitney scored on a 2-on-1.
With the second period ticking down the Canucks responded. Ryan Kesler breaking out of the zone found Jeff Tambellini who made no mistake in netting his eighth of the season – a career high – to draw the Canucks within one at 19:14 of the second.
"I think the first 20-25 minutes, both teams obviously had their Christmas legs on there a little bit and it took us a little while to find the proper execution," said head coach Alain Vigneault."Even though we were down 2-0, I liked the way we played for the most part in the second period. We had some real good, quality chances, we just couldn't find the back of the net.
"Obviously Jeff's goal was a big goal, making it 2-1 near the end of the second period there. And then our guys did what they had to do, they kept pushing and kept working hard."
The Canucks opened the final frame with the same energy and pressure that they ended the second with. Manny Malhotra dished the puck behind the Edmonton net to Raffi Torres who fed it in front to Mikael Samuelsson who in turn put it past Khabibulin, tying the game two minutes and 30 seconds into the third.
Picking up where they left off before the short holiday hiatus, the Canucks continue to roll, earning their 11th win in 14 games. Contributing to their success is the squad's depth. On the recent three-game road trip (2-0-1), 13 Vancouver players collected points.
"When we've got four lines and six D's playing the same way, we trust each other and we have confidence that a lot of guys are going to do their job," said Henrik Sedin who along with Alex Burrows had the assists on the game winner. "And if you have that, it's going to be different guys stepping up every night."
Cory Schneider made his second consecutive start – for the first time this season – as the Canucks faced off against the Oilers for the third straight Boxing Day. The netminder stood tall against pressure from Edmonton's young, fast team, turning away 19 shots to improve Vancouver's record to 3-1-0 against the Oilers on December 26.
Tonight's matchup was something of a family affair for the Tambellini and Gagner clans.
Canucks winger Jeff Tambellini, who sparked Vancouver's comeback, had his father's full attention trained on the game, although he definitely wasn't rooting for a Canuck victory.
"I'm sure he's not too happy right now," said Tambellini of his dad's reaction.
Steve Tambellini is Edmonton's General Manager, having joined the club in 2008 after 17 seasons as part of the Canucks management team, most recently as Vice President and Assistant GM. He spent 10 seasons as a player, suiting up for five teams including the Canucks.
It is now the younger Tambellini who is helping Vancouver achieve success, having signed the team in July.
"He's going to the tougher areas and he's winning some one-on-one battles in front of the net," said Vigneault. "And obviously we knew about the speed and the shot. We saw that on his first goal."
The Boxing Day game also pitted Oilers forward Sam Gagner against his father Dave, who is the Canucks Director of Player Development and also played with Vancouver during his 15 seasons in the NHL. While Sam finished a minus-2, him and his linemates Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle were a constant threat in Vancouver's zone.
The fathers and sons will have a rematch in the new year when the teams face off on January 7.
Setting up Tambellini's second period goal, extended Kesler's point streak to seven games (five goals and six assists); Vancouver saluted retired winger Darcy Rota during the game as part of the franchise's 40th anniversary celebration.