EDMONTON - First periods like that don't happen too often. Almost never.
Saturday's was record setting. Emotional. Electric.
The Oilers set a franchise record for the fastest three goals to start a game when Taylor Hall (2) and Ladislav Smid put the Canucks in the deepest of holes after only 2:43 of playing time. The previous record was set in 1981 when the Oilers (Wayne Gretzky, Garry Unger and Mark Messier) netted three against the Colorado Rockies by 3:25, propelling the orange and blue to a 7-4 win.
Oh, and for good measure Hall added another, completing the hat trick after only 473 seconds. That, too, is a new record. The Great One had previously held the mark for the fastest hat trick to start a game in Oilers history by scoring three in 12:38 off the top, but Hall accomplished the feat five minutes quicker.
It was like old times Saturday night at Rexall Place as the Oilers throttled the Vancouver Canucks 4-0 and have now won three straight (a season-high).
"It's pretty cool," Hall said of breaking Gretzky's record. "Any time you can break The Great One's record it's pretty special. It was one of those games where everything I shot at the start went in."
"We're looking for the odd exploit from somebody, and to get a hat trick at this point and for Taylor to do it was wonderful," added Head Coach Ralph Krueger.
Hall got things started 16 seconds in when he accepted a quick outlet pass, burst down the wing and snapped a shot short side on Cory Schneider.
On the Oilers' very next shot 1:49 later, Ladislav Smid snapped a 36-game goalless drought dating back to March 25 of last season, drilling a slap shot past the hopeless netminder to make it a 2-0 game.
Unable to come up with a save on two Oilers shots, Schneider was pulled and replaced by Roberto Luongo in the Vancouver net. But it didn't matter in the slightest.
Thirty-eight seconds after that, Hall collected his second of the night and 10th of the season off a similar play as his earlier goal, but on the opposite side of the ice.
With a power-play marker at 7:53, Hall put the Oilers up 4-0 with his hat trick goal. No. 4 wasted little time on the man-advantage, curling off the goal line and sliding the puck past Luongo 11 seconds in.
"That creates another dimension of speed," said Krueger. "We're already quick with our feet and if we can continue to move pucks like that, it will create problems for the opposition."
"It was huge to get a big start and after that we played really well," added Hall.
The onslaught didn't end there. Moments later, Magnus Paajarvi raced down the ice and backhanded a shot off the crossbar. Collecting the rebound with Luongo desperately trying to scramble back into position, Sam Gagner dished to Ales Hemsky with an open net to shoot for. Unfortunately for the home side, the veteran winger couldn't quite corral the pass, giving the goaltender an extra moment to gather his bearings and come up with a brilliant save.
"It shows we're maturing a little bit," said Hall. "If there's a team in the League that can come back and score four unanswered goals, it's (Vancouver). We're proud to have shut them down the whole way through."
"We stuck with it throughout the whole 60 minutes," added Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who collected a pair of assists in the win. "There was no real lull for us. We kept our foot on the pedal and didn't back off at all.
"Tonight was huge for us. It's a divisional game and we know they're more important. We had to be prepared for this. We have Calgary next and we have more divisional games in this last month here."
At the other end, Devan Dubnyk was as solid as he's been all year. With eight minutes left in the period, he robbed Chris Higgins with a glorious second effort to deny Canuck's backhand shot.
Dubnyk recorded 23 saves and his second shutout of the season.
Less than a minute into the second on a 2-on-1 rush with Ales Hemsky, Paajarvi's one-time shot struck iron and the 4-0 score remained. The odd-man rushes kept coming as Hall led one with Whitney moments later, but the bouncing cross-ice pass disrupted the defenceman's rhythm.
Each team had a power-play chance in the second but both passed without incident.
Hall had a chance to score a fourth late in the third period, but Luongo came up with a sensational save as he leapt across the crease and punched the puck -- out of midair, no less -- off the goal line.
The Kid Line went back to work moments later, but a doorstep rebound try by Eberle was thwarted by Luongo's right pad.
With the win, the Oilers improve to 14-13-7 and now sit in 10th in the West with 35 points, one back of the eighth and final playoff spot currently occupied by the St. Louis Blues.
"Tonight was a good night," said Krueger.
-- Ryan Dittrick, edmontonoilers.com | Follow me on Twitter @ryandittrick
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