EDMONTON, AB -
The Oilers made it a 2-1 game with just five minutes remaining in the third period and had a good push at the end, but it wasn’t enough as the Vancouver Canucks earned the win and pushed their record to 3-0 this season against Edmonton.
“There wasn’t a lot of flow in that first for either team,” said Oilers Head Coach Dallas Eakins. “I think both teams were trying to get going but then I thought in the second and the third, the game really picked up and got better as it went along. I thought we were right there even with them. I’m not sure that they outplayed us or we outplayed them, but I thought the game started to tilt our way definitely in the third period.”
The Oilers got off to a rough start when the Canucks drew first blood, just 5:14 into the game. Dale Weise took a shot on Ben Scrivens and the puck bounced off of the goaltender. Kellan Lain pounced on the rebound and the puck trickled past Scrivens and in. Tom Sestito earned the secondary assist.
Lain lasted just two seconds on the ice in his first-career NHL game on Saturday night, when he was tossed after a line brawl against Calgary after the opening face off. Tonight, in his second NHL game, Lain recorded his first career goal.
It may not have been a line brawl, but this game was not without fireworks. Edmonton’s Ryan Jones squared up with Vancouver defenceman Kevin Bieska in the first period after Jones went into the boards behind the Canucks net. It was Jones’ third fight in four games after fighting Brenden Dillon in Dallas on January 14, and Stephane Veilleux in Minnesota on January 16.
Vancouver’s Zack Kassian pushed the score to 2-0 at 7:59 of the second period. Kassian shot the puck from the high slot over the blocker of Scrivens. Kassian was assisted by Ryan Kesler and Daniel Sedin.
Roberto Luongo stood tall in net for Vancouver, making a few big saves to keep the Oilers scoreless, until there was just five minutes left on the clock.
Taylor Hall found Sam Gagner crashing the crease and although Luongo made the initial save, the puck rolled out behind the net. Jordan Eberle would finish it off, through traffic out in front, to draw the Oilers within one. Hall and Gagner each earned assists. With that goal, Eberle has scored three games in a row. It was also his 40th point of the season.
The Oilers pulled Scrivens late, but couldn’t get the equalizer as the Canucks skated by with the narrow victory.
“Well, it’s a great fight at the end and good pressure and some good chances and you hit the post on the power play,” said Oilers Captain Andrew Ference. “I think the penalty kill was excellent tonight. It was good, but I think there’s still just that extra little bit that I think everybody feels is just left on the table at certain parts of the game. It’s not like it was horrible plays. You’re playing against a good team that knows how to cycle and you’re going to give up some zone time. It was better, but not at a level that you’re really grabbing a game and taking control of it…”
Luongo made 23 saves in the final two periods to seal the deal for Vancouver.
“He definitely stole, well not stole the game but kept them in it and made some huge saves,” said Eberle. “I think we could have had two or three on the power play there and he just made some great (saves). There’s a reason why he’s at the Olympics. I thought we played a pretty good game, we just couldn’t find a way to score. Obviously, we get that one there but I think, for sure, those saves he made on the power play were the difference.”
There was a lot of talk tonight between Oilers tough guy Luke Gazdic and Kassian. The Canucks forward has been a thorn in the Oilers side this season with instances like a high-stick in the preseason which knocked Gagner out of the lineup with a broken jaw and then some trash talking to the Oilers forward in the rematch. The Oilers took to the defence of the fact that they didn’t take a dumb penalty seeking retribution, despite questions from the media.
“To go out of our way, in a close game and go seek retribution and take a dumb penalty, I’m not sure how that helps us,” said Eakins.
Eakins supplied that Gazdic did in fact try to engage Kassian multiple times.
“I saw talk between a guy on our team that handles that very well and that player. One player wasn’t willing to engage so I’m not quite sure what else do you do. Go jump him, go slash him, cross-check him in the face, go do something like that. But, I’m not sure what that does to helping us win the game when it’s a close game.”
“I want our guys to play hard, I want them to play physical when the hits are there, I want them to stand up for each other in the right spots but I think we have to be very, very careful at seeking retribution.”
Ference added, “You guys are the same ones who will rip on a guy for jumping somebody and doing something out of context. Gaz went over to him, Gaz tried to engage with him many times tonight. He doesn’t want to fight, he doesn’t want to fight. What can you do? You can’t just drop the gloves and start punching him. We’ve seen that. You guys are critical of that. You guys would be the first ones to rip on guys for doing that. We have a guy like Gazdic that’s done a lot of that this year and will do anything for his teammates. He goes over, engages him and he doesn’t want to fight…”