He shot! He scored!

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 11:51 AM ET

Important players score important goals.

Ales Hemsky became an important player this season and scored the most important goal of the season, and his career, with 33.3 seconds remaining last night.

It put the Edmonton Oilers in the playoffs.

"He shot!'' was how the post-game media scrum with Craig MacTavish began.

"He scored!'' said the coach.

An hour later MacTavish, his jacket off and tie loosened, emerged from the Oilers dressing room.

"A great goal at the end of the game by Hemsky and then San Jose comes back to beat Vancouver.

"It was quite a ride.''

ENDS THE GREAT RACE

The Oilers beat Anaheim 2-1 and San Jose defeated Vancouver 5-3 to end the great race for playoff positions in the wild west.

"That was a highly stressful second game,'' laughed MacTavish.

Game, night and season.

"I've always enjoyed coaching but it hasn't been that enjoyable the last little while. It almost seems like cheating that we don't need to win the 82nd game of the season for the final playoff spot.''

And Ales Hemsky shot!

He never shoots from down low beside the net. And normally, he said, he wouldn't have.

"I really didn't have nothin' there,'' said the Oilers' leading point producer in his break-through season as an NHL star.

It was a breakout play with Chris Pronger feeding Jarret Stoll who hit Hemsky.

"I had a lot of speed. I tried to take it to the net. There was pretty much nothing there, but I just decided to shoot it,'' he said of the short side.

"Usually I take it behind the net. I thought about it. But it was the last minute. I decided to take the shot.''

A few games ago, when an interviewer asked about all the gorgeous goals Hemsky has scored this year, MacTavish said "to be honest, I'd like to see him get some ugly ones.''

Hemsky laughed at the suggestion this one might have been his least gorgeous goal, something less than a signature work of art, but that it would get more TV time in Edmonton than the other 18 he's scored in his 77 point season.

"Sometimes you need an ugly one,'' grinned the 22-year-old Czech, conceding that it was the biggest goal of his career.

"It's great. It was great timing. We had to win this game. We did! It had to be me or somebody else.''

Shawn Horcoff laughed about his linemate finally shooting in that situation.

"I'm glad he started tonight,'' he said.

"People are always yelling at him to shoot more. We needed a goal like that.''

Ryan Smyth, his other season-long linemate, said everybody in the league knows that Hemsky goes behind the net in that situation instead of shooting.

"Maybe that's what (Jean-Sebastien) Giguere was thinking,'' said Smyth of the Ducks goalie who is strangely 2-9-1-1 against Edmonton in his career for Anaheim - a team which, even more strangely, hasn't won a game in Rexall Place in their last 12 or since the turn of the century.

"Whatever, it was a big goal for us. For him to get that goal in that situation of that game with everything that was on the line for us ... that shows something about his character,'' said Smyth.

Pronger said he wasn't shouting "Shoot!'' himself as Hemsky had the chance. But he was thinking it. "He had a couple of other chances he could have shot. Thank goodness he shot on that.''

Ethan Moreau, who scored the Oilers other goal three minutes into the game, said Hemsky is always in good position for that play.

"He gets a step on his man all the time. He could cut it in almost every time.''

He cut in. It went in. Oilers win.

"I'm not going to critique another opportunity he had when he passed it over to Ethan,'' laughed MacTavish.

Edmonton took the ice trying to make good things happen instead of playing uptight waiting for bad things to happen.

They won most of the little races to the puck and led 1-0 early.

But when Dwayne Roloson gave up a bad goal, waving on a shot from well out late in the first period, they went away from the go-for-the-gusto game.

ROLOSON STOOD TALL

Roloson, however, stood tall the rest of the way and after playing afraid-to-lose hockey again in the second period, the Oilers began coming on again in the third.

"We started strong, sagged a little bit and picked it up again in the third period,'' said MacTavish.

"We had two five-on-five goals. That's one more than we had on the road trip.

"The bottom line is that we needed the two points. We weren't interested in going to overtime to solidify one point.''

At the end of the day, somebody had to finally put one in the back of the net.

"He sure wants to be in that situation,'' said MacTavish of Hemsky wanting to be on the ice with games on the line.

He just gave himself a chance to do it in his first Stanley Cup playoffs.


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