The Oilers went with Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Jesse Puljujarvi on their top line for this one and the terrific trio paid immediate dividends, scoring the game's opening goal just 3:41 after puck-drop. McDavid and Puljujarvi forced a Canucks turnover, Draisaitl scooped up the loose puck and found McDavid in the slot, and the captain dished it to his left to Puljujarvi for the no-doubt one-timer, giving the Finn a career-high 13 goals on the season.
PLAY OF THE GAME
With just under four minutes to go in the middle frame, McDavid scooped up the puck in the neutral zone on a turnover by Bo Horvat, exploded into Vancouver territory down the left side and wired a seeing-eye wrist shot through Braden Holtby and over the goal line for his 30th tally of the season and 90th point.
SAVE OF THE GAME
Less than a minute after J.T. Miller scored Vancouver's second goal of the night to cut the deficit to 3-2, Tanner Pearson had a golden opportunity to tie it up when he got the puck right in front of the Oilers net, but Mikko Koskinen darted out his right pad to deny the backhand shot. Just 67 seconds later, Dominik Kahun converted Edmonton's fourth goal to make it 4-2 through 40 minutes.
Kahun's goal was a big one as it re-established Edmonton's two-goal lead with just 45 seconds to go in the middle frame on a perfect passing play. Kailer Yamamoto carried the puck into the attacking zone, dished it to his left to Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who dropped it back to Dmitry Kulikov cutting in from the point and the newly-acquired defenceman found Kahun on the far right wing for the one-timer past Holtby. It was the German winger's seventh goal of the season and the Russian blueliner's first point since his deadline-day trade from New Jersey to Edmonton.
Puljujarvi scored Edmonton's opening goal and made a great play in front of the Vancouver net to set up Tyson Barrie for their second goal. The Finnish forward found the back of the net for a career-best 13th time and now has 23 total points, which is also a career high. He had plenty of chemistry on the top line with McDavid and Draisaitl, logging 16:21 with three shots on goal and one hit.
With his second-period tally, McDavid became just the third player in NHL history to record 30 goals and 60 assists in 50 games or less, joining Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux who achieved the remarkable feat nine and five times, respectively, during their Hall of Fame careers. The Oilers captain has now recorded four straight multi-point games on the road with five goals and eight assists during that streak, in addition to putting up three or more points in six of his last seven games overall.
Monday marked the first of four consecutive games between the Oilers and Canucks as they'll square off again in Vancouver on Tuesday before heading to Edmonton for a pair on Thursday and Saturday. They'll also conclude Edmonton's regular season on May 15 at Rogers Place, separated by two Oilers road games in Montreal next Monday and Wednesday.
"We've given ourselves a chance at it now," Barrie said of the Oilers punching their ticket to the playoffs. "It's nice to get that X next to your name, get that out of the away, and now we've got a shot to win the Stanley Cup. That's what the goal is at the beginning of the year and we've done a good job accomplishing that."
"Your first goal every season is to play in the playoffs," McDavid said of clinching. "That's step one and we've been able to do that. We need to continue to work on our game and get ready for the playoffs... It's exciting, but that's all it is. We've got lots and lots and lots of work to do before we even get to the playoffs. We can't take our foot off the gas now."
"He was excellent in all parts of the game," Head Coach Dave Tippett said of Nugent-Hopkins, who played 19:36 and won nine of his 17 draws, suiting up at centre with Yamamoto and Kahun. "That line was really strong and they got rewarded with a goal. He was solid in the faceoff dot. That was a very strong game by him and that line."