It’s a sacrifice Mark Letestu would happily make again.
The Oilers forward lost a tooth on a high stick before returning to score the go-ahead goal on the ensuing power play in the third period as Edmonton defeated the Vancouver Canucks 3-2 on Saturday to clinch at least second place in the Pacific Division.
“I’ll always trade teeth for goals,” said Letestu.
Having secured home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs with the victory, the Oilers can finish first in the Pacific if they beat the Canucks in Sunday’s regular-season finale and the Anaheim Ducks lose to the Los Angeles Kings in regulation.
“There wasn’t a lot of people that predicted that coming into the year,” said Letestu. “As we win, as we continue to reach these different levels, there are new possibilities.”
After missing the playoffs the last 10 miserable seasons, Edmonton’s 101 points marks the first time the franchise has cracked the century mark since earning 106 in 1986-87.
“We believed in ourselves in the locker-room,” said Oilers captain Connor McDavid. “We knew what we could do and what we were capable of.”
Jordan Eberle and Iiro Pakarinen also scored for Edmonton (46-26-9), which got 29 saves from Cam Talbot in his league-leading 73rd start of the season.
Brock Boeser and Alexander Edler replied for Vancouver (30-42-9). Ryan Miller made 32 stops.
Tied 1-1 in the third period, Letestu redirected a McDavid feed on a four-minute power play past Miller for his 16th goal of the season at 3:04.
McDavid’s assist extended his career-high point streak to 13 games (seven goals, 16 assists) – also now longest in the NHL this season.
The 20-year-old superstar leads the league in scoring with 98 points (30 goals, 68 assists) and is primed to become the first player to win the Art Ross Trophy in his second season since Sidney Crosby in 2006-07.
“It’s not weighing on my mind,” McDavid said if getting to 100 points mattered to him on a personal level. “It’s more important the team gets 100 points than an individual.”
After Letestu gave his team the lead, Edmonton put things away with 9:20 left in the third moments after killing a penalty to Milan Lucic. The bruising forward swatted Canucks defenceman Troy Stecher away like an annoying fly on a partial breakaway after coming out of the box. Lucic’s initial shot was stopped by Miller, but Pakarinen buried the rebound for his second.
Edler got a consolation goal for Vancouver, his sixth, with 40.3 seconds left in regulation, but Edmonton held on.
The Canucks, who will miss the playoffs for second straight spring and the third time in four years, are an NHL-worst 7-22-3 since Jan. 25, a run that has seen them tumble to 29th in the overall standings.
Vancouver has lost seven in a row in regulation, and 12 straight at Rogers Arena (0-9-3) dating back to an overtime victory on Feb. 18, an embarrassing run that set a new franchise-low for consecutive games without a victory at home previously set during the team’s inaugural 1970-71 season.
Just 2-12-2 over their last 16 games overall, the club’s last victory in regulation in Vancouver came all the way back on Jan. 20.
“It’s hard not to think about that,” Canucks head coach Willie Desjardins said of his job security. “But the one thing you do as a coach is coach. I can’t control that. Every day I will work to make our team the best it can be and others will decide what we are going to do.
“We didn’t get the results we wanted, but I liked how the guys competed.”
Edmonton opened the scoring 61 seconds into the second period when Eberle’s shot ramped up off Stecher’s stick and beat Miller upstairs on the shortside for his 17th.
The Canucks got a power play late in the second and finally beat Talbot, who made his sixth straight start, after a couple of great chances.
Daniel Sedin fed twin brother Henrik down low, and he in turn found Boeser at the side of the net with a no-look pass for the rookie’s fourth goal in eight games since joining the Canucks before the Oilers responded in the third.
“We’ve gotten better as the season’s went along,” said Eberle. “I think we’re playing our best hockey right now, which is what you want to do going into the playoffs.”
Note: Oilers head coach Todd McLellan said after the game backup goalie Laurent Brossoit will start Sunday. ... Desjardins said he would leave it up to Miller whether he started or if Richard Bachman got the nod.Report Typo/Error