Mike Keane scored two goals to help Vancouver win the Northwest
Division with a 5-2 victory over Edmonton on Saturday night,
eliminating the Oilers from playoff contention.
After winning just one of the first seven games following
Bertuzzi's season-ending suspension for a blindside punch on
Colorado's Steve Moore, the Canucks rallied to win their final six
and clinch their first division title since 1993.
"There were a lot of doubts creeping into people's minds here
but the guys in the room believed we could do it," said Brendan
Morrison after recording a goal and an assist. "It was just a
matter of going out and proving it. It took us a little while to
get over the whole issue and deal with the adversity of what
happened with Bert, but I think it's made us a stronger group."
The loss by the Oilers, who got goals from Brad Isbister and
Igor Ulanov, gave Nashville its first playoff berth. Edmonton
missed the playoffs despite losing in regulation for just the
second time in their final 19 games.
"All that work that we've done for the last two months has sort
of gone down the drain," Oilers forward Ryan Smyth said. "We're
really happy with the drive, but this is going to hurt for a
Edmonton remained tied with Nashville at 89 points, but the
Predators got in on a tiebreaker despite losing 4-1 to St. Louis.
"It's tough to swallow," Smyth added.
Dan Cloutier, starting his second straight game after beating
San Jose 4-1 Friday night, made 24 saves as Vancouver finished the
season with 101 points. Colorado is two points back with one game
left, but Vancouver has the tiebreaker, ending the Avalanche's
record run of nine-straight division championships.
The Canucks lost the Northwest title to Colorado on the final
day of last season after blowing a late-season lead.
"It's pretty special just the way things turned out last year
and the way we battled back after some real strange adversity this
year," Trevor Linden said. "We were counted out two weeks ago and
as a team we knew we had to run the table and win six straight and
we were able to do it."
Keane and Isbister exchanged goals four minutes apart in the
first period before Naslund put the Canucks ahead for good on a
disputed goal with 2:12 left in the period.
The goal light went on after Naslund's one-timer from the side
of the crease, but the referee didn't signal a goal until Naslund
poked it over the line a few seconds later -- sparking a melee in
front of the net. With the Oilers still arguing, a video review
showed the puck had trickled across the line behind Conklin before
Naslund's final nudge, giving the Canucks' captain his 35th goal of
the season and third in the last four games.
Keane added his second goal on a two-on-one break with Trevor
Linden 13:42 into the second, keeping the puck and snapping a
perfect wrist shot from the right faceoff circle over Conklin's
"We were stressing shots and it just went in," Keane said
after matching his single-game career high.
Morrison made it 4-1 with 31 seconds left in the second period,
but Ulanov closed the gap again with a power-play goal at 4:14 of
Ohlund rounded out the scoring with 2:16 left on the ensuing
"I think we proved we can play at a real high level and we can
compete," Keane said. "If you're third in the Western Conference
it shows you can compete.
The Canucks, including Bertuzzi and other players not in
the lineup, stayed on the ice after the game to give their jerseys
to fans chosen out of the stands, which were sold out for all 41
games this season for the first time in franchise history. ...
Vancouver also announced its end-of-season player awards and the
loudest cheer was when Bertuzzi was chosen most exciting player.
... The Oilers have now missed the playoffs in two of the last
three seasons after making it in the previous five. Edmonton's
playoff fate was decided in the final four games of the season in
all but one of the last eight years.