Canucks cling to playoff hopes ahead of Oilers rematch


The Vancouver Canucks mathematically are still alive in the chase for a ticket to the Stanley Cup playoffs.

With eight games remaining in their condensed finish to the regular season, the Canucks — with help — can still supplant the Montreal Canadiens for fourth place in the North Division.

The Canucks (20-25-3, 43 points) need more like their last performance when they face the Edmonton Oilers (32-18-2, 66 points) in the teams’ fourth consecutive meeting on Saturday.

Vancouver snapped a six-game losing skid in a 6-3 win over the Oilers on Thursday, a game in which they scored on their first four shots for a 4-0 edge and held on.

“We probably needed a win like this and it’s fun,” said defenseman Travis Hamonic (one goal, one assist). “As the season grinds along, it’s never going to go necessarily the way you think and want, but you have to slow things down and enjoy the wins when they come your way and then reset tomorrow. It felt good; it felt like we had been grinding for a little bit and it was nice to get one.”

The Canucks sit 14 points behind the slumping Canadiens, who have lost two straight and still have three games remaining in the regular season.

“We’ve had a couple games where some top-end guys have taken over the game on the other team and we were not getting results,” Canucks coach Travis Green said. “But any time you’re talking to a team and trying to teach and keep them confident, getting a win goes a long way. (It) was an important win for our group.”

Despite having their three-game winning streak snapped, the Oilers still hold a 5-3 edge in the season series with Vancouver. Edmonton holds the second spot in the North Division and won’t likely move up or down before the regular season ends, so a lack of focus is understandable.

However, falling behind by four goals before the 13-minute mark isn’t a good sign for the team, or second-string goalie Mikko Koskinen, who was pulled after going without a save.

“The first one was poor coverage, the second was a poor turnover and the third and fourth ones should have been saves from our goalie,” coach Dave Tippett said. “I don’t know if I’ve ever seen that, the first four shots go in your net, so it’s a big hole to jump out of.”

The good news for the Oilers in that game was captain Connor McDavid collected three more assists and now is up to a league-leading 96 points. McDavid has four games to reach the century mark in a 56-game season, and it’s a good bet he’ll reach it. McDavid has collected two or more points in nine of his last 10 games, with eight goals and 19 assists in that span.

The loss was his 17th game this season with three or more points this season, which is the second most in a single season since 2005-06, and all the other players who recorded 18 or more three-point games did so during an 82-game campaign.

McDavid, who also failed to convert a third-period penalty shot, was more concerned about bouncing back and readying for the playoffs.

“I think we’ve done a good job of responding after games like this, responding after losses,” McDavid said. “Getting back to our game and regrouping is all we can do. … We want to go into the playoffs on a high note. You don’t want to limp into the playoffs. It’s not like a light switch where you can turn your game on and off.”

–Field Level Media

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