VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) -The Vancouver Canucks were too worried about winning the game to worry about losing the physical battle against Edmonton.
In the end, they figured they did all right on both counts.
Markus Naslund scored the opening goal and helped set up Daniel Sedin's winner 7:45 into the third, lifting the Canucks to a rough, fight-filled 4-2 win over division-rival Edmonton on Saturday night.
"I think they were trying to send a message and we answered it," Naslund said of a game that started with three unsportsmanlike conduct penalties in the first 21 seconds and ended with ten fighting majors in the final 40 seconds. "We re here to win the game and we did."
They did so in a game featuring 14 fighting majors, eight misconduct penalties and 193 penalty minutes.
"It was a hard fought battle, both teams wanted to win the game and we fought right to the end," said Oiler forward Zach Stortini.
The energy and physicality that was involved in the game resembled a kind of playoff atmosphere, at least to Markus Naslund and the 18,630 screaming fans.
“You can tell that it was two desperate teams [out there], and right form the first shift I thought the game had a playoff atmosphere to it,” said Naslund. “It’s fun to play when the crowd gets into it.”
The Canucks wrapped it up after Naslund pounced on a bad turnover by Tom Gilbert inside the Edmonton zone and fired it down low to Henrik Sedin, whose quick pass across the crease left twin brother Daniel with plenty of room to snap his 25th goal over a sprawling Mathieu Garon.
"They tried to play tough and I thought we stood up pretty good," Daniel Sedin said.
Not only did they stand up pretty good, the Canucks top line of the Sedin's and Naslund had a pretty good outing as well. Combining for seven points on three of Vancouver's goals, the Swedish stars shone brightly tonight.
“I think we stepped it up a little bit from last game,” said Daniel Sedin. “Last game, we had the puck a lot but didn’t create that much offense, tonight we took the pucks to the net and scored a couple goals.”
The game got off to a wacky start as Edmonton's Zach Stortini and Vancouver's Byron Ritchie tussled only 11 seconds into the contest. Luongo robbed Curtis Glencross on a breakaway 10 seconds later and the penalty boxes filled up after another nasty post-whistle scrum between the Northwest Division rivals.
With four Canucks in the box to three Oilers, Luongo made another couple of big saves on a 4-on-3 power play, and Naslund opened the scoring 3:08 in with a backhand off the stick of a defenseman and past Garon on the short side.
An already physical, fight-filled game got even rougher after Alexandre Burrows scored into an empty net with 40 seconds left to play. Oilers forward Jarret Stoll bumped Burrows at the side of the net after the goal and Burrows responded with a wild one-handed swing that caught Stoll on the skates, touching off a wild scrum behind the net.
All eight skaters squared off again with nine seconds left, and three more fights broke out with 3.5 seconds left, a fitting ending to a game that started with both penalty boxes overflowing.
"I didn't see anything dirty in the game," said Oilers coach Craig MacTavish, who only took exception to an uncalled hit from behind by Matt Cooke on defenseman Mathieu Roy. "There was no back stabbing, there were eyeball to eyeball altercations and fights and that is part of hockey."
Recorded one goal and one assist, opening the scoring and setting up the game winner.
| Kyle Brodziak
Scored the game tying goal as one of Edmonton’s better forwards.
Finished a gritty performance with one assist, two hits, and a fight, as a physical force.
"It was just two teams playing good aggressive hockey and both teams realized how important the game was and clearly form the outset it was going to be a physical game and that s the way it ended," MacTavish said. "I was fine with that."
Asked if it crossed any lines at the end, MacTavish said, "no, not at all. It's just hard-nosed hockey and those things happen. I'm not going to apologize for it, that's for sure."
Really the only thing missing from the game was a goaltender showdown at center ice.
"I was dangling the gloves but I don’t think he wanted to go," Canuck netminder Roberto Luongo said jokingly in a humorous tone. "Obviously if I had to come to the aid of a team mate I would have gone in there, but there’s no use for me to get involved with stuff like that."
Sami Salo also scored and Roberto Luongo made 24 saves for the Canucks, who have nine points in their last seven games (3-1-3) to move into a tie with Calgary for the final two playoff spots in the Western Conference, one point up on ninth-place Colorado. But it was the physical play that had everyone talking in the Canucks room after.
"They tried to come in our rink and tried to intimidate us and push us around," said Ryan Kesler. "But when they try to push around Danny and Hank (Sedin), its our job to respond and show them and tell them that's not going to happen and I thought we did a good job of that tonight."
Marty Reasoner and Kyle Brodziak scored, and Garon stopped 23 shots as the Oilers lost for the second time in six games to fall seven points out of the playoffs.
With the win the Vancouver Canucks post their first regulation victory since January 3 against the New York Rangers and climb back into the playoff picture, sitting in eight with 66 points.