Oilers beat Canucks 3-2, clinch at least second in Pacific
VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) — Mark Letestu lost a tooth — and then helped the Edmonton Oilers gain two more points.
The Oilers forward took a high stick to the mouth before returning to score the go-ahead goal on the ensuing power play in the third period as Edmonton defeated the Vancouver Canucks 3-2 on Saturday to clinch at least second place in the Pacific Division.
“I’ll always trade teeth for goals,” said Letestu, who scored his 16th of the season.
Jordan Eberle and Iiro Pakarinen also scored for the Oilers, who can still finish first in the division if they beat the Canucks in Sunday’s regular-season finale in Edmonton and the Anaheim Ducks lose to the Los Angeles Kings in regulation.
“There wasn’t a lot of people that predicted that coming into the year,” Letestu said. “As we win, as we continue to reach these different levels, there are new possibilities.”
After missing the playoffs the last 10 seasons, Edmonton’s 101 points marks the first time the franchise has cracked 100 since earning 106 in 1986-87.
“We believed in ourselves in the locker room,” Oilers captain Connor McDavid said. “We knew what we could do and what we were capable of.”
Cam Talbot made 29 saves in his sixth straight start.
“We’ve gotten better as the season’s went along,” Eberle said. “I think we’re playing our best hockey right now, which is what you want to do going into the playoffs.”
Brock Boeser and Alexander Edler had goals for the Canucks, and Ryan Miller made 32 stops.
Tied at 1 in the third period, Edmonton connected after Vancouver’s Reid Boucher took a double minor for high-sticking when Letestu redirected a pass from Connor McDavid past Miller for his 16th goal of the season at 3:04.
McDavid’s assist extended his career-high point streak to 13 games (seven goals, 16 assists) — also now longest in the NHL this season.
The Oilers captain leads the league in scoring with 98 points (30 goals, 68 assists) and is primed to become the first player to win the Art Ross Trophy in his second season since Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby in 2006-07. Crosby and Patrick Kane are tied for second with 89 points.
“It’s not weighing on my mind,” McDavid said when asked if getting to 100 points mattered to him. “It’s more important the team gets 100 points than an individual.”
Edmonton made it 3-1 with 9:20 left in the third moments after killing a penalty to Milan Lucic. The bruising forward came out of the box and his initial shot was stopped by Miller, but Pakarinen buried the rebound for his second.
Edler scored for Vancouver with Miller on the bench for an extra attacker with 40.3 seconds left in regulation.
The Canucks, who will miss the playoffs for second straight spring and the third time in four years, are an NHL-worst 7-22-3 since Jan. 25, a run that has seen them tumble to 29th in the overall standings.
Vancouver has lost seven in a row in regulation, and 12 straight at Rogers Arena (0-9-3) dating to an overtime victory on Feb. 18, a run that set a franchise low for consecutive games without a victory at home, previously set during the team’s inaugural 1970-71 season.
Just 2-12-2 over their last 16 games overall, the club’s last victory in regulation in Vancouver came on Jan. 20.
“It’s hard not to think about that,” Canucks coach Willie Desjardins said of his job security. “But the one thing you do as a coach is coach. I can’t control that. Every day, I will work to make our team the best it can be and others will decide what we are going to do.”
After a sluggish first period, Edmonton opened the scoring 61 seconds into the second when Eberle’s shot ramped up off Stecher’s stick and beat Miller upstairs on the short side for his 17th after Vancouver turned the puck over.
The Canucks got a power play late in the second period and finally beat Talbot, who was making his NHL-leading 73rd start, to tie things after a couple of great chances. Daniel Sedin fed twin brother Henrik down low, and he found Boeser at the side of the net for the rookie’s fourth goal in eight games since signing with the Canucks after his U.S. college hockey season ended.
NOTES: Oilers coach Todd McLellan said backup goalie Laurent Brossoit will start Sunday. ... Desjardins said he would leave it up to Miller whether he started or if Richard Bachman got the nod. ... Talbot stopped 13 shots in picking up his 41st win against the Sharks in San Jose on Thursday to pass the Oilers single-season record set by Grant Fuhr in 1987-88.
The Canucks are at Edmonton to complete the home-and-home on the final day of the regular season.