SUN Hockey Pool

Sammy slams one home

Oilers' Sam Gagner scores on Canucks' Roberto Luongo during the game Saturday night in Edmonton....

Oilers' Sam Gagner scores on Canucks' Roberto Luongo during the game Saturday night in Edmonton. (Jason Franson/SUN MEDIA)

DEREK VAN DIEST, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:34 AM ET

It might be in the category of too little, too late, but considering all that's gone this week, at least a different talking point. A positive one for a change.

The Edmonton Oilers 5-3 win over the Vancouver Canucks last night at Rexall Place turned the focus back on the playoff chase for the time being.

HIGHLIGHT REEL

"It certainly has been negative around here the last little while," said Oilers forward Sam Gagner, who scored a highlight-reel goal in the third period.

"In the room the focus was to try and stay positive and just get ready for our next game, no matter what was going on.

"We realized this was a huge game for us, momentum-wise and hopefully it will help us down the stretch."

With the win the Oiler inched closer to the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. They started the night four points back and are now three back with three games to play.

They'll host the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday before finishing the season with a home-and-home series with Calgary.

"We had a number of good performances, not the least of which was Roli (Dwayne Roloson)," said Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish, who earned his 300th career win. "The guys played hard, capitalized on the chances they got, defended quite well, but we always make it interesting."

Roloson, making his 35th consecutive start, turned aside 43 shots in the victory. He was busiest in the second period after the Oilers had taken a 2-0 lead.

"It's been a tough week," said Oiler forward Patrick O'Sullivan. "It was good to get some positive energy and go out and win a game. At the end of the day all we can worry about is trying to get a win where we can and see where the chips fall."

It had been a tumultuous week for the Oilers, yet when Ales Kotalik scored on the game's opening shift, the focus quickly turned back to the events on the ice.

Kotalik knocked in a rebound past Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo off a point shot from Sheldon Souray to give the Oilers a lead 27 seconds into the contest.

Denis Grebeshkov extended the Oilers lead in the second period, getting to a rebound off the end boards first, while battling for position in front of the net.

Mason Raymond cut into the lead taking a pass from Mats Sundin at the side of the net and slotting it past Roloson.

Gagner restored the two-goal lead with an outstanding individual effort, undressing the Canucks best defensive defenceman Willie Mitchell, then going around Luongo before sliding into the open net.

'LITTLE BIT OF SPEED'

"Our defence did a great job of standing them up and making them turn the puck over," Gagner said. "I had a little bit of speed coming over the line and he (Mitchell) was taking away the wall so I jumped to middle and it worked out that I was all alone and I was able to get to my backhand.

"It was a pretty good feeling and I'm glad it came in a win."

Alex Burrows cut the deficit to one later in the period, getting in behind the Oilers defence and beating Roloson on a second effort on the ensuing breakaway.

Sheldon Souray then pounded a shot past Luongo on the power play to restore the two-goal lead, before Kyle Wellwood scored late off a scramble in front.

Ales Hemsky then capped of the scoring with an empty netter to seal the victory.

"It was a big win for sure," said MacTavish.

"It buys us a little time, buys us a little hope. That's all we can ask for going into our final three games."

DEREK.VANDIEST@SUNMEDIA.CA


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