VANCOUVER, BC --Mark Letestu scored the go-ahead goal early in the third period and the Oilers added an insurance marker on the way to clinching home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs with a 3-2 win over the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday night.
A feed by Connor McDavid was neatly redirected in front by Letestu past Canucks netminder Ryan Miller for his 11th power play goal of the season, making it a 2-1 game in favour of the visiting Oilers.
Vancouver jammed at the puck during a mad scramble in the crease but Oilers goalie Cam Talbot stood tall. During the scramble, Milan Lucic got nailed for a cross-checking penalty, giving the Canucks the power play.
When Lucic came out of the box, Lucic burst out of the penalty box and outmuscled Troy Stecher. The big number 27 spun and fired a shot on goal, clipping Stecher with his stick in the process. Miller made the initial save but Iiro Pakarinen swooped in and scored on the rebound and made it a 3-1 game.
Oilers head coach Todd McLellan was asked after the game about the contribution Pakarinen has made to the club.
"I think he's made a case for himself over the past two years. Unfortunately he was hurt early in the pre-season and missed a lot of hockey. He's a very trusting player. You put him on the ice and he gets the job done. You know what you're going to get, night in and night out."
The head coach commented on what was a game with a lot of battle to it despite playing a team that was out of the playoff hunt.
"It was a hard game. They played aggressive in certain areas that make it hard for us to come through and they pushed us. So I'm glad that we found a way to win and solidify home ice. There's a little more comfort going into tomorrow's game, which is good for our team now," said McLellan
The victory for the Oilers means that they now have a chance to win the Pacific Division title with a win Sunday night against Vancouver coupled with an Anaheim loss to the L.A. Kings. McLellan cautioned that the team still has a ways to go with playoffs just around the corner.
"Perfection doesn't exist until you win your last game and we're a long way away from that," McLellan added.
"We felt last year we made a lot of strides and just got bit by the injury bug, as Vancouver has experienced. It's hard to win games without your top players during any extended period of time. Knock on wood, we've been healthy for most of the season. The foundation work we did last year is paying off this year now."
Vancouver's Alex Edler scored one with 40 seconds left to make things interesting but that was as close as they would get.
McDavid was asked after the game about the team's journey this season from one that had 70 points last year to 101 points this season and potentially more.
"Our expectations weren't very high but we believed in ourselves in the locker room. We knew what we could do and what we were capable of and put together a pretty good team. We feel good about that."
After a scoreless opening period, it took the Oilers only 1:01 into the middle frame to break the 0-0 deadlock. Jordan Eberle took a feed from Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, skated to the left circle and rifled it past Miller.
Five minutes into the second, Bo Horvat and Darnell Nurse dropped the gloves in a spirited bout after Horvat hit Nurse into the end boards in the Edmonton zone. Nurse received two minutes for roughing on the altercation in addition to the coincidental fighting majors.
The ensuing Canucks power play was the first of the game for either club but Vancouver was unable to score.
Shortly after the penalty expired, Talbot made a nice kick save off an in-close chance by Megna to keep the Oilers up by one. Shots on goal were 15-13 Vancouver eight minutes into the second.
With Iiro Pakarinen in the box for interference, Brock Boeser received a nice no-look pass from Henrik Sedin and made no mistake, rifling it into the open side of the net to even the game at 1-1 with the power play marker.
It was Edmonton's turn to go on the man advantage with 31.6 seconds left in the second. Reid Boucher received a double minor for high sticking Letestu. The Oilers centre got his revenge with the go-ahead goal early in the third.