Mike Smith is ready and for the NHL’s regular season to start.
The veteran goalie made 37 saves, had an assist and almost scored a goal on an empty-net attempt as the Edmonton Oilers came away with a 3-2 victory over the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday in NHL pre-season play.
“As camp goes on you want to build your game and build and build and when the season starts to be peaking and playing some of your best hockey,” said Smith, 39. “I feel like my game is where it needs to be right now.”
Oilers newcomer Derek Ryan said Smith didn’t look like he was simply playing another pre-season tilt.
“He was dialled in tonight,” he said. “He is just a fierce competitor. You see it on the ice where he is fighting for every puck, fighting for every angle. He is like another defenceman back there, making plays and outlet passes and beating their forecheck. He is an elite asset to have here.”
Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid each had a goal and an assist and Ryan also recorded a goal for the Oilers (5-1-1), who won their third in a row.
Quinn Hughes and Nic Petan replied for the Canucks (2-4-0), who have lost two straight.
“I felt pretty good, little jitters at the start, after not having played in awhile,” said Hughes, who played his first pre-season game. “It was exciting to go out there and play in front of fans again.”
Edmonton’s lethal power play was given a two-man advantage and cashed in seven minutes into the first period when McDavid sent it across to Draisaitl, who blasted a one-timer past Vancouver goalie Jaroslav Halak.
The Oilers power play struck again with 1:26 left in the opening frame when Smith sent a long pass up ice and McDavid put a puck past Halak short to the glove side for his third goal and ninth point in four pre-season games.
The Canucks got one back with a power play of their own as Hughes blasted a long shot through traffic past Smith two minutes into the second period.
Vancouver scored the game’s fourth power-play goal three minutes later as Petan tipped an Elias Pettersson pass into the net.
Edmonton regained the lead with an even-strength marker midway through the middle period as Ryan tipped in a Duncan Keith point shot.
There was a scary situation late in the third when Oilers forward Zack Kassian hit his head on the ice with his helmet popped off after a fight with Zack MacEwan. Kassian laid motionless for a while, but was later able to head to the dressing room on his feet, albeit with help.
“He got a pretty good bump on his head from hitting the ice, but he is in good spirits,” said Oilers head coach Dave Tippett. “He was telling jokes when I came and saw him after the game.
“It was one of those moments that upsets you. You never want to see that happen. It was a freak thing. His helmet comes off and he just falls the wrong way and bangs his head. It is lucky that he seems alright.”
Halak made 39 saves in the loss.
It was the first of three consecutive games between the Oilers and Canucks. They will close out pre-season play on Saturday in Vancouver before facing each other again to start the regular season on Wednesday back in Edmonton.
Pettersson and Hughes played for the Canucks for the first time in the pre-season after finally agreeing to contract extensions last weekend Also playing his first exhibition game was Oilers defenceman Kris Russell, who was recovering from an upper body issue Oilers forward Kailer Yamamoto was out with a possible concussion, opening the door for veteran Kyle Turris to move up to the second line for the contest Oiler hopeful Brendan Perlini, who leads the league with five pre-season goals, was a healthy scratch.