April 1, 2012
Oilers pluck Ducks
By ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI
ANAHEIM - Teemu Hartikainen had his guy.
When you are a young hockey player from Finland, playing against the Anaheim Ducks, there is only one player who matters - future Hall of Famer Teemu Selanne.
So the 21-year-old Oilers hopeful honoured his childhood idol Sunday by outscoring him 2-1
As it turns out, he outscored the entire Ducks team 2-1, pacing the Edmonton Oilers to an upset victory at the Honda Centre.
"It was great, he was my biggest hockey player growing up," said the 6-foot-1, 215-pounder. "I looked at Teemu like my idol. Being on the ice at the same time, standing next to him in faceoffs, was big. It was a great opportunity for me. It felt great."
Hartikainen's night went so well the fans in Anaheim were even chanting his name.
Of course, the "TEEMU, TEEMU" wasn't for him, but rather fans urging Selanne in what might have been the last home game of his career, to play one more year. But it was nice just the same.
"I was thinking about that, we're in California and I have so many fans here," laughed Hartikainen. "I hope they let me play one more year."
Hartikainen, who made a similar splash when the Oilers called him up late last season, opened the scoring on the first shot of the game, putting a quick one past Jonas Hiller 15 seconds in, and moved two up on Selanne and the Ducks on a deflection at 6:04.
"Great feeling, the rest of the game felt pretty good," he said, adding he had visions of a hat-trick running through his mind. "I wanted to score a third. I had a pretty good chance late in the game... maybe another night."
Selanne cut the deficit to 2-1 when Ryan Whitney and Eric Belanger left him unattended at Devan Dubnyks' back door at 14:29.
That's as close as they'd get.
Hartikainen, with five goals in his career, needs 658 more to catch the 41-year-old Selanne on the career list, but all that mattered on this night was having another strong audition. The fact it came with Selanne in the building is only icing on the cake.
"When he played on the National teams and Olympics he was always the best player, We didn't have much NHL on TV in Finland, but every Saturday morning we had a show about the NHL and he was, and still is, the biggest hockey player in Finland."
The Hartikainen story doesn't have a happy ending if it's not for Devan Dubnyk. He was sensational, giving Edmonton a chance on a night when they had 10 shots in the first 40 minutes and were outshot 15-5 in the third. He seems to get better the more he plays.
"It helps with a little bit of everything," he said. "There's finding that rhythm, and you learn. The only way to get better, especially as a goalie, is to play and learn. I feel like I'm in a pretty good spot right now, it's a lot of fun."
The end of this season is going the same way the end of last season went for Hartikainen. The key now is starting like this in October and staying all year, adding much needed size and hands to a team that needs it.
"I think it's going better now than last year," he said. "My defence is better. I'm feeling confident, creating chacnes. I'm actually feeling better than last year."
HEMSKY OUT: Ales Hemsky left the game in the second intermission with a sore shoulder, news that sent a chill up the spines of Oilers fans who are hoping Taylor Hall, scheduled for the same surgery Hemsky had, can be back at 100 per cent in September.
LATE HITS: Cam Barker, in his first game back after 15 on the shelf, crushed Jason Blake with an open ice hit in the second period and landed a handful of good left hands in the ensuing fight with Ryan Getzlaf... Jeff Petry, who took a clearing attempt in the face against Los Angeles, didn't break anything, but he isn't feeling great. They didn't seem any point in flying him to California for a couple of games he wasn't going to play, but they're hoping he'll be good to go when they return to Edmonton.
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