If the Oilers look way up in the Western Conference standing they'll see the Canucks more than 20 points ahead of them and sitting in second place while they occupy the second last position. The Canucks are very much the Stanley Cup contender that Oilers fans can only dream of cheering for right now. These are teams in two vastly different places right now but they are still divisional rivals and that gives these games meaning; perhaps more to the Oilers and their fans who are looking for something, anything, positive to hang their hats on.
And this game didn't disappoint. The Canucks were the better team for most of the night but that wasn't exactly unexpected. Still, the Oilers fought hard and generated scoring chances, giving the Canucks a game that was much closer than they had likely expected. Even after a game last night and a late night trip to Vancouver the Oilers didn't fade, instead scoring a goal with less than five minutes left to force overtime. Overtime would be a wonderful five minutes of back and forth hockey leading to a shootout. The shootout didn't end as we'd have hoped but, for a night at least, the Oilers reminded their fans just how exciting a good hockey game can be.
Daniel Sedin would score the games first goal giving the Canucks the lead just past the midway point of the first period. A Dan Hamhuis pinch forced a turnover from Taylor Hall as the Oilers tried to clear the zone, Alex Burrows gathered up the loose puck and his backhand pass found Sedin whose wrist shot beat Devan Dubnyk high to the glove side. The Hall turnover on the boards was not an isolated incident, the Canucks forced a lot of turnovers by pressuring the Oilers as they tried to cross their own blue line.
Despite trailing after 20 minutes the Oilers played what would be called by most a good road period, it certainly better than any period they played the night before at home against the Sharks. In the first period the Oilers outshot the Canucks by a 12-9 count and stayed out of the penalty box as well both of which were good but the Canucks had the edge in terms of scoring chances, 7-5, and trapped the Oilers in their own end for an extended period on two separate occasions with a combination of a strong cycle and Oilers turnovers.
In the second period the Oilers would tie the score when Shawn Horcoff scored his ninth goal of the season and first goal of 2012. Horcoff had to do little more than tap the puck in after receiving a great cross crease pass from Hall who showed amazing patience in waiting for the passing lane to open rather than forcing a pass. Before the Hall pass to Horcoff, Ales Hemsky made a great play of his own holding onto the puck until Hall came open for the pass. Hemsky's willingness to take a hit to make a play is nothing new and it's one of the things that makes him a great hockey player.
The Canucks almost retook the lead in the final minute when Kevin Bieksa made a tape-to-tape pass from in front of his own net to Jannik Hansen at the Oilers blue line. Hansen who was standing behind both Oiler defenders got his breakaway shot through Dubnyk but the puck dribbled off the post and stayed out keeping the game knotted at one a piece heading into the third period.
The third period would start how the second period ended, with a shot off the post, this time the shot coming off the stick of David Booth. Booth would't be denied a goal on this night however and gave the Canucks the lead at the five minute mark of the period when he tapped home the puck from on the Oilers goal line after it squeaked through Dubnyk. The Canucks went for the jugular at this point, almost scoring another goal and drawing a penalty in the ten seconds that followed the goal.
But the Canucks were unable to score on the powerplay that followed, allowing the Oilers to hang around in a 2-1 game. Given a powerplay of their own with about five minutes left in the game the Oilers would score the powerplay goal that the Canucks couldn't, tying the game at two. The goal, a deflection of a Corey Potter point shot, was Hall's sixteenth goal of the season. Hemsky got the other assist, his second point of the night.
The five minute overtime would fail to result in a goal but it certainly wasn't for a lack of trying. In five minutes the Oilers had three scoring chances and the Canucks four. The shots were eight to three in favour of the Canucks. It was a tremendously entertaining five minutes of hockey. For Oilers fans who don't especially enjoy the Canucks, myself for example, it might have been the best hockey you've seen in a couple of months.
The shootout wouldn't go as well for the Oilers tonight as it had the night before though. Hemsky would score the Oilers only goal of the shootout, a nice backhand shot to Roberto Luongo's blocker side. Three of the Oilers other shooters - Jordan Eberle, Hall, and Sam Gagner - would all try what was essentially the same move, a deke to Luogo's glove side and Horcoff shot for the five hole needing to score to force a sixth round but was turned away. For the Canucks Alexander Edler would score on the first shot of the shootout followed by misses from Mason Raymond, Burrows, and Ryan Kesler before Cody Hodgson scored the game winner.
News and Notes:
- With two assists and a goal in the shootout Hemsky had one of his better games in quite a while and looked dangerous on most of his shifts. The Hall/Horcoff/Hemsky got a much easier matchup against Kesler's line than he has been getting because the Canucks happily took a matchup of the Sedin line versus Gagner, Eberle, and Hartikainen.
- Teemu Hartikainen struggled tonight but he was playing on a line and against competition that is a full step or two above where he should be right now. A number of times Hartikainen looked lost in his own zone but, again, that had a lot to do with the assignment he'd been handed. The coaching staff shouldn't be tossing any players into the deep end like that and they need to find a way for him to play a more reasonable role until he proves he can take on tougher competition.
- Ryan Whitney is in trouble. He can't move and looks no different now than he did when he left the lineup over a month ago. Whatever is wrong with his ankle clearly isn't getting better and I'll give him credit for being willing to try and play through it but he was the least mobile defended the Oilers had tonight. Where this goes from here is anyones guess.
- The Canucks are seventh in the NHL in faceoff winning percentage having won 51.5% of their faceoffs but it was the Oilers who owned the faceoff circle on this night winning 34 of 51 draws. Eric Belanger led the way for the Oilers going 13 and 3, followed by Gagner who won 8 of 12.