Yakupov hat trick, late surge lifts Oilers over Canucks in season finale
|Photo by John Ulan / Getty Images
OUT WITH A BANG
Highlighted by the heroics of rookies Nail Yakupov and Justin Schultz, who combined to record seven points, six Oilers recorded multi-point nights in a 7-2 rout.
Yakupov's hat trick pushes him ahead of Jonathan Huberdeau for the lead in rookie scoring with 17 goals and 31 points this season.
"I'm pumped for the win and am very excited about scoring all the goals," said Yakupov. "I think we showed that we can play this way. We wanted to put on a show for the fans. I want to play in the playoffs and I think everybody wanted to, but this happened. Next year we're going to try and make the playoffs and play better."
The late-game explosion was not only impressive -- it was record-breaking.
The Oilers scored five goals in three minutes and 35 seconds, setting a new benchmark for the fastest five in club history. The previous record was set on Feb. 27, 2004 when Fernando Pisani, Adam Oates, Shawn Horcoff and Ethan Moreau tallied in a span of 5:38.
"It was fun," said Taylor Hall, who ended the season with 16 goals and 50 points in 45 games. "We played pretty well all game. It seemed to be that they let up a couple shifts and we seemed to bury a few. It doesn't matter what team it is, to give our fans a show like that in the last game at the end of the year is fun for us.
"We really played well these past two games. If we would have done that all year, who knows where we would be right now? It was nice to put in an effort like that. Our fans are so good and it's good to end on a good note."
"It's really nice," added Justin Schultz. "It's still the Canucks and they're our rivals. It's nice to go out on a good note, especially against them.
"We started doing what we wanted to do all year in these last two games. Now we know we can do it. Hopefully we can start doing that every game next year."
The Canucks got best scoring chance seven minutes in when an ill-timed pinch by Nick Schultz led to a 3-on-1 back the other way. Leading the charge, Derek Roy, Steven Pinizzotto and Dale Weise failed to engineer much of anything, resulting in one of the easier saves Devan Dubnyk was forced to come up with on the night.
Dubnyk made 28 saves in the win.
At 15:41, a hooking minor to Hall put the Canucks on the power-play. With 25 seconds left in the penalty, a backdoor feed by Jannik Hansen connected with Derek Roy, who neatly deposited the puck into the open side past Dubnyk, who had little chance to make a save.
Following a dominant, minute-long shift by Ryan Smyth, Mike Brown and Anton Lander, Canucks defenceman Kevin Bieksa's clearing attempt landed in Section 101, resulting in an Oilers power-play chance that went for nought.
Late in the second period, emotions reached a boiling point as Smyth and Ryan Kesler engaged in a heated stare-down at centre ice. The gloves stayed on, but only for a moment. With less than two minutes to play in the period, Bieksa swarmed Ladislav Smid and before long, everyone on the ice was involved in the brief melee.
Riding the momentum and feeding off the energy of the sold-out Saturday night crowd, the Oilers brought the game back on even terms at 18:40. Finding a seam, Justin Schultz curled to the boards and wristed a shot that connected with the stick of Jordan Eberle to the left of Luongo. Neatly redirecting it on his backhand, the puck found the net as No. 14 collected his 15th goal and 36th point of the season.
Penalties to Hansen (boarding) and Mason Raymond (delay of game) gave the Oilers an extended 5-on-3 early in the third. Quickly scooping a Corey Potter rebound off Luongo's left pad, Yakupov bounced a shot up and over the sprawling goaltender to give the home side a 2-1 lead.
The Canucks replied in a hurry.
Pouncing on a rebound left by Bieksa at the lip of the crease, Tom Sestito raced in and slapped a shot past Dubnyk 80 seconds after Yakupov's go-ahead goal.
At 7:27, Canucks defenceman Keith Ballard was sent off to serve a holding minor. On the ensuing Oilers power-play, chances at both ends came fast and furious. First, Raymond and Weise orchestrated a dangerous-looking 2-on-1, but Dubnyk came up with a massive save.
Moments later, Corey Potter had all day to walk in and launch a bullet on goal, but Luongo stood tall.
Out of the box as his penalty expired, Ballard was sprung on a breakaway. Dubnyk was sensational once again, stoning the initial shot with his left pad, then flexing the other to deny the trailer, Maxim Lapierre.
The chances (and goals) kept coming.
Justin Schultz got it all started by scoring at 13:17, knocking home a centering pass by Luongo. Yakupov added another less than a minute later, beating the netminder with a wicked wrist shot to make it a 4-2 game.
"It felt good to get one in my last game," said Schultz. "To get the win, more importantly, we had a lot of fun out there."
Then Eberle got in on the action, slipping a backhand shot past Luongo to extend the lead. Making it a four-goal lead, Yakupov collected his hat trick at 15:47, sliding a shot under the goalie's pad and recording his 31st point of the season.
"(Yakupov) loves to score and he loves to play hockey," said Hall. "He shows that enthusiasm in games and in practice. It's good to see. You've seen a pretty good transition period of a player's career. He's made a lot of strides in areas in areas that he wasn't well known for this season."
"I feel more comfortable," added Yakupov. "I play with the captain (Horcoff) a lot and he helped me a lot this season."
Jerred Smithson added another late, slapping a shot past Luongo from the high slot to make it a 7-2 game with less than four minutes to play.
"We're not pleased with our final placing and we wanted desperately to still be playing after today," said Head Coach Ralph Krueger. "I thought with the situation we were in before these final two games and having played so many games this week, the group showed a lot of character in digging out a win."
-- Ryan Dittrick, edmontonoilers.com | Follow me on Twitter @ryandittrick