VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) - The Vancouver Canucks are getting more competition among themselves lately then from their opponents.
Daniel Sedin scored twice in the second period to extend his team lead to 24 goals, but Ryan Kesler completed his second career hat trick in the third to close within one as the Canucks extended their winning streak to eight games with a 6-1 victory over Edmonton.
``That's what you need, guys to push each other and that's what this team is doing right now in a lot of different places throughout the team,' said Daniel, who also added an assist on Alex Edler's later power play goal.
The competition includes the goaltenders. Rookie backup Cory Schneider made his fifth start in eight games while No. 1 Roberto Luongo rests more, and finished with 23 saves to remain unbeaten in regulation (8-0-2) in his first full NHL season.
``We have internal competition so guys are competing to be the best and be the guy who scores that big goal or carries the big load on his shoulder and it seems like it's a different guy every night,' said Schneider. It s friendly competition I suppose, but there s no malice.
Henrik Sedin had three assists as Vancouver set a franchise record by going unbeaten in regulation for 15 games (13-0-2), and established a new mark for its best 20-game stretch at 17-1-2. The Canucks remain first overall in the NHL with 59 points, and host Detroit (57 points) Saturday with top spot on the line.
``These are games you mark on your calendar,' said Kesler.
Just not before making sure they didn't overlook the struggling Oilers.
After a scoreless first period, Sedin sandwiched his goals around Kesler's first as Vancouver put its first three shots of the second period past goalie Nikolai Khabibulin. Kesler, who recorded his first hat trick in mid-December, completed his second with a pair of deflection goals in the third period, but wasn't worried about catching Daniel for the team lead.
``It's good competition,' Kesler said. ``He's obviously a pure goal scorer so there's no way I'll be able to keep up with him.'
Ales Hemsky scored with less than a second left in the second period, and Khabibulin finished with 29 stops for the Oilers, who were coming off a win over the New York Islanders the night before, but have now lost eight of nine.
``We played the best team in the NHL tonight and lost by five, said coach Tom Renney. ``You don t hand the puck over to a team like this.
Khabibulin was actually very good while Edmonton was being outshot 14-6 in the first period. But things opened up early in the second, and as usual against the Oilers it was the Sedin twins leading the way for Vancouver.
Daniel got it started 30 seconds into the period after a perfect cross-ice pass off the rush left him with an empty net. Kesler doubled the lead 94 seconds later with a 40-foot wrist shot that handcuffed Khabibulin, hitting his glove before bouncing up and over the goalie and trickling into the net.
``We kind of fell apart (after that),' Oilers defenseman Tom Gilbert said. ``There are a few too many holes on this team and they exposed those holes.'
After a couple of great saves by Schneider, Daniel Sedin made it 3-0 on the next shot at 6:36, finishing off a pretty 2-on-1 pass from twin brother Henrik. That forced Khabibulin to slide right and allowed Daniel to cut back into the middle the other way before tucking his team-high 24th goal into the empty net.
Daniel now has 29 goals in 58 career games against the Oilers, while Henrik has 57 points in 61 games versus the Northwest Division rivals.
Hemsky jammed a puck past Schneider with three-tenths of a second left in the second period, but the result was never really in question.
``I've got to be leading the league in run support, Schneider said ``We've learned how to close out games and not sit back but apply the pressure and score some more goals.
Notes: Vancouver C Alexandre Bolduc was a healthy scratch after going 0-for-8 on faceoffs against Calgary Wednesday, including the defensive zone draw that cost Luongo a shutout with 10.8 seconds left. ... Edmonton C Gilbert Brule missed the game after suffering an abdominal injury Thursday.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved