VANCOUVER — Three straight wins heading into the Christmas break has given the Vancouver Canucks a dose of self-confidence, but goaltender Jacob Markstrom says his team hasn’t proven anything yet.
“It's December right now,” Markstrom told reporters after the Canucks came back with three third-period goals to beat the Edmonton Oilers 4-2 on Monday night at Rogers Arena. “We can't get ahead of ourselves. We’re still looking in, I think (to a playoff spot).”
With the win, the Canucks sit in 10th place in a tight Western Conference but move just two points back of the Oilers (20-16-4), who currently hold down the third spot in the Pacific division.
“I think our team game today was really good, one of the better 60-minute performances we had,” added Markstrom, who stopped 27 shots in his eighth-straight start for Vancouver. Mikko Koskinen made 24 saves for Edmonton. Both teams' power plays went 1 for 2.
Tyler Motte, Bo Horvat, Quinn Hughes and Loui Eriksson scored for Vancouver (19-15-4), while Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Oscar Klefbom replied for Edmonton.
Playing their fourth of a five-game holiday homestand, the Canucks opened the scoring for the fourth-straight game.
Motte lined up against Leon Draisaitl for an offensive-zone draw with one second remaining in a slashing penalty to the Oilers’ Gaetan Haas. It took Motte just two seconds to drive forward and lift the loose puck over Koskinen’s glove for his first goal of the year at 11:15 of the first period.
“I think it was our first offensive-zone faceoff in awhile,” said Motte, who has been effective in a checking role on a line with Jay Beagle and Tim Schaller. “We knew they were coming out of the box in two seconds, so just trying to get a puck to the net.
“When Beags got kicked out, I was just trying to keep a similar play and went to that side. I think it bounced off his skate and right back behind him. Just tried to get something on net quick.”
Nugent-Hopkins replied with his seventh of the season with 4:20 left in the opening frame, driving into the slot before burying his shot on Markstrom’s stick side.
With Antoine Roussel serving an interference penalty early in the second period, the Oilers’ league-best road power play went to work.
After some strong puck movement, Klefbom put Edmonton ahead 2-1 with a laser from the right point that found its way through net-front traffic and past Markstrom on the blocker side. Connor McDavid and Draisaitl both assisted on the goal, their league-leading 62nd and 61st points of the year respectively.
Later in the second, Roussel dropped the gloves with Edmonton’s Darnell Nurse at the end of a physical shift in the Edmonton zone.
Troy Stecher narrowly missed tying the game when he hit the post from close range with seven seconds left in the second. Then, early in the third, Tanner Pearson hit the crossbar behind Koskinen.
At 4:12 of the third, the Canucks tied the game 2-2 on captain Horvat’s first goal on home ice this season. Video review confirmed that Horvat directed the puck past Koskinen with his right skate, but did not kick it in.
“Honestly, I was trying to stop as quick as I could at the net,” said Horvat. “Thankfully, it went off my skate and in. It was going to take one of those for me to go in. (Pearson) made a heck of a play to get it on net, and thankfully, it hit me.”
“They just said it went upstairs and they reviewed it and it was a good goal, but I've looked at it a lot of times,” said Oilers coach Dave Tippett. “If it's illegal to kick a puck in the net, that's kicking, but that's for other people to decide.”
The Oilers were unable to capitalize on their second power play of the night when Tanner Pearson took a holding penalty at 7:53 of the third.
The Canucks regained the lead with 6:12 to play in regulation, when Hughes threaded through a one-timer from the blue line for this third of the year, while the Oilers were serving a penalty for too many men on the ice.
“Connor just jumped too early — jumped two seconds too early,” said Tippett.
Eriksson closed out the scoring with his second of the season, into an empty net with 14 seconds left.
Coming into Monday’s action, the Oilers were 13-0-1 when leading after two periods. “Usually when we've had the lead this year, we've held on well,” said Nugent-Hopkins. “We had our push, they just found a way to tie it up and then just the late penalty kind of killed us.”
Vancouver’s last three-game winning streak came in October. The Canucks went 4-0-0 between Oct. 9-17.
Monday’s game concluded the season series between Vancouver and Edmonton, with each team winning two games.
NOTES: Alex Edler returned to the Vancouver lineup after missing 10 games with an upper-body injury. To make room for him, Jordie Benn was scratched for the first time as a Canuck. Thatcher Demko backed up Markstrom after missing the last six games with a concussion. The Canucks are now 13-3-0 this season when they score the first goal. The Oilers will host the Calgary Flames when they resume play on Friday, while the Canucks will conclude their five-game homestand against the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 23, 2019.
Carol Schram, The Canadian Press