EDMONTON - It's almost as if the Edmonton Oilers are playing just to get to the shootout.
And who can blame them, based on their recent successes in the skills session.
Fernado Pisani scored the shootout winner as the Oilers won their third consecutive game via the extra session and improved to an astounding 10-1 in shootouts this season, knocking off the Vancouver Canucks 2-1 on Saturday night.
Down 1-0 in the shootout with one shooter to go, Shawn Horcoff came up big to tie it up, scoring his fourth shootout goal in four attempts as he beat Canucks goalie Curtis Sanford up high. Edmonton goaltender Mathieu Garon (now 18-20 in shootouts) made a clutch save on Alex Burrows to set up Pisani's winner.
"We are really confident in the shootout," Garon said. "It was a little harder and we had to wait for the end but we came through again."
Pisani, playing in his eighth game since returning from a career-threatening bout of ulcerative colitis, said he felt fortunate to get the winner.
"When I got the call I had an idea what I was going to do before I went out there because I had been watching other guys shoot and seeing what he was doing," he said. "I went down, faked it on the forehand and pulled it to my backhand through the five-hole. I was fortunate enough to see it go in." The Oilers forward says his team just seems to have the winning formula for shootout success.
"You have to give credit to the guys who are shooting," Pisani said. "Sam Gagner, Ales Hemsky and Shawn Horcoff have all been so good and the goaltending has been great. With those working hand in hand it is a good recipe for success."
Edmonton (16-16-2) moved back to the .500 mark for the first time since just the fourth game of the season, and has now gone 8-3-1 in its last 12 and moved into a tie with St. Louis, Columbus and Anaheim for eighth in the Western Conference with 34 points.
It was the second loss in a row for Vancouver (17-12-4) and third loss on the last game of a four-game road trip. The Canucks have gone 0-4 in shootouts, three of those losses coming to Edmonton. Sanford says it was not a situation they wanted to end up in.
"We know that they got an unbelievable shootout record this year," he said. "Garon and Roloson have been solid for them back there and they have some young guys that can put the puck in the net when it's just them and the goalie. You have to respect that and it gives you all the more reason to close it out in regulation time or the overtime." After going scoreless for more than 56 minutes two goals came just two minutes apart.
Horcoff's goal came with just 3:29 remaining in the game as Hemsky hung on to the puck for what seemed like forever, circling behind the net before feeding Horcoff in front for the one-timer, his 16th of the season.
But the Canucks were able to tie it up with 1:28 left to play as Daniel Sedin's shot bounced off a body in front and went to Mattias Ohlund who had an easy tap in to send the game to overtime.
"They scored late and kinda put us behind the 8-ball," said Sanford. "We battled back and that's what we do. We're always in games right to the very end. It was a good point for us to get."
Edmonton had the best chances in the extra session but Sanford was able to stand his ground to send it to the shootout.
There was a frenetic start to the game as back and forth play went 7:07 before the first whistle of the game was blown. The first period remained scoreless with Sanford making nine stops to Garon's six.
It was still scoreless after 40 minutes as well with the best second period chance belonging to Vancouver with seven minutes remaining as Daniel Sedin blew a shot past Garon only to see the puck ring off the post. Edmonton held a 17-15 lead in shots after the second.
"I thought it was a cage-match there for a while," said Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish. "There were spattering of offensive chances, both teams checked the game really well." Both teams are off until Tuesday when Edmonton will host Dallas and Vancouver returns home to play New Jersey.
Notes: Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo sat out for the fourth consecutive game after bruising a rib last week against Pittsburgh. Sanford has gone 1-2-1 in relief. Also missing from the lineup was Vancouver centre Brendan Morrison, sitting out his third game with a wrist injury. Oiler forward Raffi Torres missed the game with a knee injury allowing Geoff Sanderson to return from a bout of back spasms that saw him sidelined for the last two weeks. This was the fifth meeting between the two teams this season, having split the previous four games. With 10 shootout wins this season Edmonton is just two short of the NHL record set by Dallas in 2005-06. Five teams tied for the league lead with 10 last season. Oilers goaltender Mathieu Garon was the proud father of a baby girl, Rosemary, on Friday. It was the 90th consecutive regular season sellout crowd at Rexall Place.