SUN Hockey Pool

'Cage- match'

DEREK VAN DIEST, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:34 AM ET

One got the sense the two teams were never going to score.

And if they did, then a single goal would probably win it.

With less than four minutes left that appeared to be the case as Shawn Horcoff broke a scoreless tie converting a feed from Ales Hemsky.

But Horcoff would need to score again, this time in a shootout as the Oilers prevailed 2-1 over the Vancouver Canucks last night at Rexall Place.

"I thought it was a cage-match there for a while," said Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish. "There were spattering of offensive chances, both teams checked the game really well."

The Oilers and Canucks had been down this path of least goals scored before. Last month in Vancouver, the two teams went scoreless through 65 minutes of play before the Oilers pulled out the victory in a shootout.

Last night after a furious start where the first whistle was blown 7:07 after the opening faceoff, the clubs settled in to a non-aggression, defensively sound, take-few-risks contest.

The Canucks were without all-world goaltender Roberto Luongo, who was nursing a bruised rib, but Curtis Sanford filled in admirably.

Coming in Sanford had already beaten the Oilers five times in his career dating back to his days with the St. Louis Blues.

The Oilers had never faced him as a member of the Canucks.

And prior to this week not many other teams had either.

But the Owen Sound, Ont., native who signed on to be the Canucks gatekeeper, cheerleader and other guy in goal behind Luongo showed he could play a little as well.

At the other end, everyone knew what Mathieu Garon brought.

The Oilers goaltender had twice previously beaten the Canucks in the shootout and last night was once again responsible for getting his team that far.

"Mathieu played well," said MacTavish. "He had the baby last night and you always play well after you have a baby. I remember a few good games after a couple of mine.

"But he played great. We had good jump in the game and we have to give them credit for defending very well."

Garon's been one of the Oilers most consistent players this season. So it was little surprise he was solid once again turning away the Canucks through the first 40 minutes, although did get a little help when Daniel Sedin rang one off the goalpost late in the second period.

Then when Horcoff scored, it appeared the goal would be good enough to earn the Oilers two points and get them back to the .500 mark for the first time since the fourth game of the season.

But Mattias Ohlund tied the game with 82 seconds to go converting a bouncing puck at the side of the net.

Both teams had chances in overtime, then the game went to a shootout where the Oilers improved to a league-leading 10-1 this season.

Fernando Pisani went on to score the shootout winner.

"I think we're really confident in the shootout," Garon said.

"Tonight we were down and we needed a goal, so there was a little pressure, but Shawn has been really good for us. He's one of the reason's we've been that successful in the shootout."


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