EDMONTON, AB - It was quite the way to end the season and an era as the Edmonton Oilers beat the visiting Vancouver Canucks, 5-2 at Rexall Place in the season finale.
It was a scene of celebration as Ryan Smyth, playing in his 1.270th and final NHL game, took to the ice wearing the ‘C’ on his chest as the game’s captain of the Oilers.
“Very classy of Andrew Ference,” Smyth said. “It came about just after warmup. Coach came into the room and he went through the starting lineup by individual and then he came to me and said, ‘I want you to play the best game of your life.’
“Then obviously, I started breaking down and Andrew Ference came over with the jersey and handed it to me with the ‘C’ on it. Obviously, I don’t play for a letter on my jersey, I play for the front of the crest and it will be a hard moment to take this jersey off. But it will be something that I’m looking forward to as going on with my life with my family and it’s just a phenomenal experience that I’m going to cherish.”
Smyth announced his retirement yesterday afternoon.
“It’s surreal to be in a game like that, even more to be able to be sharing the ice with him like that is a privilege, an honour that I’ll obviously never forget… It’s probably one of the highlights of my career, one of the top five for sure,” Oilers winger David Perron said.”
It was a couple of firsts for a pair of Oilers as Edmonton took the 1-0 lead, 2:14 into the opening period.
Roman Horak scored his first goal as an Oiler, after being acquired in a trade with Calgary in November, and Steve Pinizzotto recorded his first-career NHL point with an assist. Horak scored on a one-timer from the slot courtesy of a pass from Pinizzotto and Will Acton earned the second assist on the goal.
The Oilers took the 2-0 lead when Jeff Petry found the back of the net at 13:17 of the first period. Taylor Hall banked the puck off the boards and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins walked out from the corner and found Petry with a centring pass. The defenceman picked his shot before finding twine, top corner behind goalie Jacob Markstrom.
Ben Scrivens was tested early, facing 18 shots in that opening frame.
Acton would give the Oilers the three-goal lead just 2:14 into the second period. Philip Larsen’s shot deflected off of a Canucks stick and the puck found its way to Acton in the slot and he whipped the loose puck past Markstrom.
The Canucks drew within two again when Shawn Matthias scored at 5:25 of the middle frame. Zack Kassian had the lone assist.
With just one more goal to go in order to surpass Glenn Anderson for the most career power play goals in franchise history (127), Smyth came very close at 16:06 of the second period. Jordan Eberle fired a shot on net and just past Smyth’s raised stick. It deflected in off of a Canucks player and then there was chaos.
Smyth was upended in front of the net and soon both teams swarmed and a scrum broke out. Smyth was escorted to the sin bin for roughing along with Vancouver’s Ryan Kesler.
“That’s my style,” Smyth said. “Everybody knows me as a guy that gets his nose dirty and gets cuts and mucks it up here and there… It was a great game but I really felt that our team rose to the occasion tonight…”
After review, the goal was upheld and given to Eberle, from Justin Schultz and Hall.
“It was kind of tough because we knew it went in but I wasn’t sure what happened,” Eberle said. “The first thing I did was went to him. I thought it hit him and then we were watching the replay and I knew it hit the defenceman but I thought as it was going in maybe he had touched it on the way in. He can have it, 100%. We were trying really hard just to throw as many pucks as we could to the net and try to get him the tip. It just didn’t happen but he’s up there with some amazing players and it’s a pretty good accomplishment in itself.”
Smyth finished the first two periods, and the game, with 7:10 of time on the power play as his team worked hard to get him the goal. He even skated through a 5:36 long shift during a double-minor penalty in the second period.
Just 1:35 into the third period, the Oilers took the 4-1 lead. Martin Marincin’s shot rebounded out in front of the net and Nugent-Hopkins hacked it in. With the goal, on his 21st birthday, Nugent-Hopkins recorded a new career-high mark of 19. His previous high of 18 was set in his rookie season.
With the second assist on the goal, Hall reached the 80-point mark for the first time in his career.
Chants of ‘Smytty! Smytty!’ sounded from all over the arena all game long as Smyth’s career inched towards its finish.
“I soaked every moment of it in,” Smyth said. “It was an awesome experience and a memorable one that I’ll never forget for the rest of my life. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every moment of putting on this jersey and any jersey of the NHL. To see the fan appreciation, from start right to the end, they are the best fans in the world, fans that appreciate their hockey and I just tip my hat to them and I’m thoroughly honoured to stand up here today and say I enjoyed every moment and the fans are a huge part of it.”
Kassian scored with 11 seconds on the clock to make it 5-2.
With no penalties in the third period, Smyth would not be able to net the elusive 127th power play goal and remains tied with Anderson in the top spot in Oilers history.
“Obviously, I wanted to get that goal,” Smyth said. “It would have been a fitting night to do it but I’m still honoured to share it with Glenn Anderson…”
He closes out a tremendous career, spanning 19 years including 15 seasons with Edmonton. It was a game and a moment Smyth’s teammates and the fans in attendance won’t soon forget.
Even the Canucks came back as a team on the ice to shake Smyth’s hand, one-by-one.
“It was special,” Eberle said. “To be a part of that, I had goosebumps the whole game. He really went out with a bang. It’s got to be tough for him to play through that. I know for me, just watching, sometimes your head’s out of it. I can’t imagine how it was for him but he played well and, like I said, went out with a great bang. He’s a great guy and has been a mentor for me throughout my young career and when I first came in, he came in. He’s just a guy that you can tell (people) one day that I played with.”
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