EDMONTON, AB - Steve Pinizzotto recorded a Gordie Howe Hat Trick in what would be a roller coaster of a game with a lot of goals and a tough ending for the Oilers as they lose 5-4 to Vancouver.
“The guys that have to be critical for us, right through our lineup whether it’s a group of forwards or some of our D, they weren’t there for us the whole (game),” Oilers Head Coach Dallas Eakins said. “They showed sparks of coming but for whatever reason, they couldn’t get it done. The guys we rely on less played well. Your key guys have to be your drivers every night. It’s just not two or three, we had a number of guys struggle through different portions of the game.”
The Oilers recalled Pinizzotto from the American Hockey League’s Oklahoma City Barons on Monday and he had a night to remember. Eakins said the team expected him to provide speed and grit when inserted into the lineup. He brought the latter just 2:27 into the game when he dropped the gloves with Derek Dorsett.
The feistiness continued at 14:46 of the first, as Edmonton Captain Andrew Ference and Canucks defenceman Kevin Bieska went after it in the corner. This fight came after some contact with Oilers netminder Ben Scrivens. Both got five minutes for fighting, with Bieska getting the extra two for goaltender interference.
The Canucks took a 1-0 lead at 15:41. Jannik Hansen had a shorthanded breakaway and scored over the glove of Scrivens. The goal was assisted by Shawn Matthias.
The Canucks appeared to score again moments later, but Alexandre Burrows made contact with Scrivens, which erased the goal.
At 1:59 of the second period, Steve Pinizzotto was called for interference. The Canucks capitalized, scoring off the next faceoff. Henrik Sedin won the draw and his brother Daniel freed the puck perfectly to Radim Vrbata. The winger hammered home a shot past Scrivens at 2:02.
“This game is a lot about momentum,” Pinizzotto said. “You build off that, but when it gets stopped by an opposing team scoring a goal it’s almost like restarting again. Again, it’s about building off that and we just try to get better every shift.”
Pinizzotto, 30, netted his first career NHL goal at 4:43 of the second. The goal also came against his former team (12 games with Vancouver in 2012-13). The winger made it a 2-1 game when he picked the puck up at the blueline, then fired a shot from the top of the circle past the glove of Ryan Miller.
“It was good,” Pinizzotto said. “I was excited at the time but as soon as that was over it was back to the game, doing what I do, trying to be hard on the forecheck and making room for my linemates. The team couldn’t come out with a win tonight and we couldn’t really get the momentum going during the game but we’ve just got to come back again on Friday.”
The Canucks took back their two-goal lead at 9:39 of the middle frame. Chris Higgins let go of a shot from the top of the circle and it sizzled past the blocker of Scrivens. Higgins was assisted by Nick Bonino.
The Oilers came firing back at 11:32 of the second, on the power play. Mark Arcobello cleanly won the offensive zone draw and Teddy Purcell found twine with his shot from the slot to pull Edmonton within one.
11 seconds later, the Oilers tied the game when Boyd Gordon swung a shot on net that found its way through. Matt Hendricks and Pinizzotto earned the assists. The helper gave Pinizzotto the Gordie Howe Hat Trick with the goal, a fight and an assist in the game.
Scrivens made an acrobatic save to rob Zack Kassian with over six minutes remaining in the second period.
Vrbata scored his second power play goal of the game at 17:10 of the second to take back the lead. Yannick Weber and Daniel Sedin recorded the assists.
The Oilers got a great opportunity early in the third with a 58 second 5-on-3 power play but couldn’t capitalize on the man advantage.
“That was a huge momentum swing for them,” Purcell said. “We had our looks but we just didn’t get it done. At the end of the game as well, we had a couple of good looks and Miller made some big saves. That’s on us to get the job done when it matters and not at the last 30 seconds of the game.”
The roller coaster ride continued at 11:32 of the final frame as the Canucks took the 5-4 lead. Daniel Sedin set up Weber out in front for the go-ahead goal. Henrik Sedin had the second assist.
“It’s tough,” Purcell said. “We battled back from a couple goals a couple of times to try and tie it up. We give them that odd-man rush and that’s kind of the end of the game. Too little, too late. It’s tough, but you’ve got to learn from it and take some stuff from it.”
With 8.1 seconds left on the clock, the Oilers thought they had tied the game. However, the puck was kicked in and the happy ending wasn’t meant to be for Edmonton as they dropped the 5-4 decision.
“It’s disappointing,” Eakins said. “You want the points. We have to find a way to be on the other side of the one goal and it’s what we’ll continue to strive to do.”