VANCOUVER -- It was clear from about the midway mark of the second period, watching Mathieu Garon and Roberto Luongo waging an acrobatic netminding duel, that the next goal would win it.
That the only goal would win it.
It was like soccer, only exciting.
Scoreless after 20. Scoreless after 40. Scoreless after 60. Scoreless through five minutes of overtime.
Great chances, turned away by greater saves.
It wasn't until penalty kicks, when Ales Hemsky scored, after the first five shooters were turned away, that one of the goalies blinked.
"Matty played an unbelievable game and gave us a chance to win," said Hemsky, whose backhand deke at GM Place last night gave Edmonton its second straight win, snapping a run of seven consecutive losses to the Canucks.
"I just decided that I would fake the shot, then get it up, pick the corner, and I did it."
Garon, who stopped all 29 Canuck shots in regulation and OT, and then Byron Ritchie, Brendan Morrison and Ryan Kesler, was even better in this one than he was in beating Calgary last game.
"It was just a good goaltending battle," said Shawn Horcoff. "They took it to us early, and then in the second half of the game I thought we came on pretty strong.
"In the third period Louie made some big saves for them, and Matty was unbelievable for us."
As Luongo was for the Canucks.
"Sometimes goaltenders are in that zone where they're just stopping everything," said Canucks coach Alain Vigneault.
"And give credit to Edmonton, they worked hard."
Garon had a feeling that giving up even one goal would be one too many.
"When you're playing a good goalie like Roberto you don't want to give up goals because if you do you're going to be in trouble," he said. "I just wanted to keep the team in the game. It was a big win for us."
The Oilers, who've been giving up a ton of shots lately, 38 and 39 in their two previous games, were peppered 16-5 in the first, but Garon kept it scoreless.
Starting for the third time in five games, he didn't get much help at either end of the ice in the first two periods. The shots were 23-10 Vancouver through 40 minutes, but the Oilers came to life in the third, knowing they had a chance to steal one.
The win lifted Edmonton over idle Phoenix into 14th place in the Western Conference. With five points in their last three games, things are starting to look up.
"I think so," said Horcoff, who liked the way Edmonton looked in a pair of tight games with Vancouver and Calgary. "In the tight games in the past, we'd get a little nervous and lose. We were a lot more patient. It's a credit to the guys."
And Garon. Who stole the last two.
"He's playing well,"said head coach Craig MacTavish. "You want to ride that as much as you can."
Jeff Deslauriers joined the team yesterday morning, taking some shots in practice and manning the door to the Oilers bench while Dwayne Roloson flew home early to rest up for his anticipated start tonight against Minnesota.