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Oilers complete home-and-home sweep of Canucks

by Robin Brownlee
EDMONTON, Alta. -- The Vancouver Canucks have nothing at stake in the standings and won't have anything on the line until the playoffs begin next week -- and it showed again

With the Presidents' Trophy and first place in the Western Conference already secured, the Canucks lacked their usual zip in a 4-1 home loss to the Oilers at Rogers Arena on Saturday. They were better for the final 40 minutes of the rematch at Rexall Place, but Devan Dubnyk stopped all 26 shots he faced and Edmonton got power-play goals by Ryan Jones and rookie Magnus Paajarvi in a 2-0 win in Tuesday night

The loss snapped a nine-game road winning streak for the Canucks, who have now lost as many games to the Oilers in span of four days as they did to the entire NHL in the month of March.

Not that coach Alain Vigneault is worried.

"We've got a very veteran group that's very mature," Vigneault said when asked about losing back-to-back games to a team that began the night 54 points behind his team.

"They've always known what to do, and I'm very confident this group will be fine."

The Canucks still have regular-season games against Minnesota and Calgary remaining before the playoffs start next week.

"I can't speak for everybody, I can only speak for myself," said Roberto Luongo, asked if the Canucks have hit an emotional lull. "I find the motivation within myself. I'm a competitor and I want to go out there and play hard every night.

"I think probably all the guys have the same mentality as I do but, sometimes, subconsciously, you know, you let up a little bit. That's when you might see the results going the other way a little bit."

For the second straight game, the Oilers were unlikely winners in the battle of special teams. Edmonton's 29th-ranked power play went 2-for-3 in Vancouver and struck twice again in this game.

At the same time, Vancouver's top-ranked power-play was blanked in three attempts after going 0-for-4 Saturday.

"I think we came out really well, although I don't think we played a full 60 minutes," said Paajarvi. "We had some downs in this game, but Dubnyk was strong in the net and he gave us a chance to win.

"We finally executed a little bit on the power play. I think it's important to execute when you have the shot. If we can close the game against a team like that, we can't miss it."

The Canucks talked about getting off to a better start after a sluggish showing early in Saturday's loss, but it was the Oilers who carried the play, holding a 7-1 margin in shots through 12 minutes and an 8-4 edge in the period.

"It is what it is right now, so we have to find a way to ramp it up for the last two games," Luongo said.

"That's exactly what I said after the last game. This League is too good. There's 30 good teams in this league and no easy games. If you're not playing 20-man units out there, most nights you're not going to find a way to win.

"Obviously, there's not much for us to play for right now, but we've got to realize these games are still important for us to be ready for next week."

Edmonton went ahead when Eberle's power-play shot bounced off the leg of Jones and over Roberto Luongo at 19:57. The assist was Eberle's 42nd point, tying him for the team lead with the trio of Ales Hemsky, Sam Gagner and Taylor Hall -- all of whom are out for the season with injuries.

While the Canucks showed more jump in the second period, they leaned heavily on Luongo -- he faced just six shots, but had to make point-blank saves on Andrew Cogliano and rookie Paajarvi midway through the period to keep it a one-goal game.

"I think you've got to give a lot of credit to Edmonton. They're playing well," Vigneault said. "They're playing hard and they're playing pretty tight hockey right now and there's not a lot of room on the ice."

Paajarvi made it 2-0 with 2:46 left in regulation, banging a puck past Luongo with the Oilers on a two-man advantage thanks to an elbowing major and game misconduct assessed to Raffi Torres for a hit on Eberle and minors to Aaron Rome and Alex Burrows. It was Edmonton's first 5-on-3 power-play goal this season.

Eberle was striding and leaning to reach for a puck when Torres leveled him

"I'm going for the puck and I thought he had me beat, but he just left the puck and hit me," Eberle said. "I don't really feel anything, so it's obviously a positive."

Edmonton defenseman Tom Gilbert had his consecutive games streak come to an end at 332 when he was a late scratch because of a sore back.
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