VANCOUVER -- For a team with so much young, fresh talent, the Edmonton Oilers sure looked like an experienced group Sunday night.
Trailing 2-0 midway through their season debut, the Oilers stuck with their game plan, never deviating or forcing things, earning the praise of their first-year coach and a 3-2 comeback win against the Vancouver Canucks.
Jordan Eberle started the comeback with 3.1 seconds left in the second period, and Ales Hemsky tied it on a power play with 5:55 left in the third before combining with Sam Gagner to win it for the Oilers in the shootout.
"The willingness to stick with what we came here to do was outstanding," said rookie coach Ralph Krueger. "The way this story evolved was really the perfect first game. Having dug out of a hole like that is something that always strengthens us. The character of the group was outstanding."
Eberle started the comeback with a perfect sharp-angle backhand shot off the rush and over Roberto Luongo late in the second period, and, after killing off a couple Canucks power plays, the Oilers converted one of their own to tie it.
Hemsky, turned away on a couple good looks earlier in the game, took a pass from Gagner in the neutral zone and skated in alone down the right wing before lifting a shot from the faceoff dot under Luongo’s blocker.
"We knew they would come hard but we said if we stick with it and play the same game. We can do it and that's what happened," Hemsky said.
Gagner then beat Luongo with a backhand deke in the first round of the shootout, and after Devan Dubnyk stopped Alexander Edler and Alexandre Burrows, Hemsky sealed the comeback win with a slick deke through Luongo’s legs.
Hemsky credited Oilers goaltending coach Frederic Chabot, who Krueger said made the shootout selections, for giving them a game plan in the one-on-one.
"Freddy did a great job giving us some options what we should do," he said. "We saw a lot of shootouts how guys score on video, and just did what he told us."
It might not have gotten that far if not for Dubnyk, who made 27 saves through the end of overtime, including a Dale Weise breakaway early in the third period, and several good saves while blanking the Canucks on five power plays.
"Devan just showed so much calm, well positioned the whole time, and our penalty killing bought us the time," Krueger said.
At the other end, Luongo, who got the start just one night after replacing new No.1 Cory Schneider in a 7-3 loss to Anaheim, finished with 30 saves through overtime before being beat by both shootout attempts.
Edler and Zack Kassian scored for the Canucks, who at least managed a point after a brutal debut against Anaheim the night before.
"Today was a different game, back to back situation against a team that was waiting for us and had 12 to 13 skaters playing since September, so for the most part I liked what we did on the ice," coach Alain Vigneault said. "We didn’t have much left in the tank halfway through the third period but we tried to battle through, we got a point and I believe we took a step forward tonight."
Edler scored his second of the season – and third point after signing a six-year, $30-million contract extension on the eve of it Friday – shortly after helping kill off an Edmonton power play. Edler made a nice play to break up a good one-timer chance at one end, but as he skated out of his end the big defenseman missed teammate Maxim Lapierre coming out of the penalty box for a breakaway. Instead Edler kept the puck himself, walked over the line and leaned into a slap shot over Dubnyk’s blocker-side shoulder form the top of the faceoff circle.
Kassian doubled the lead with 5:42 left in the second period after a spinning backhand pass out of the corner from Daniel Sedin, but Eberle cut into it late driving wide off the left wing and lifting a perfect backhand over the shoulder of Luongo, who dropped to a knee, and just inside the far post and crossbar.
"It was certainly a momentum switch in the game and you could feel the energy after that goal," Krueger said. "You have to be good in timely moments to turn a game at this level. It was critical we got on the board there."
Luongo said he should have had it – and Hemsky’s tying goal.
"Both goals I thought I should have made the save," he said. "(On Eberle’s) I was looking at the clock and trying to cover short side and I wasn’t really square to him and he lifted a backhand under the bar. Even though it was a nice shot, I’ve got to square up there and play him true and that's not going to go in."
It wouldn’t have mattered, said captain Henrik Sedin, if the power play clicked.
"It was really disappointing," Sedin said. "I thought we played well enough to win this game. If our PP steps up and we score a third goal, we are standing here talking about a win instead of a shootout loss."
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