EDMONTON — Inside the dressing room, it sounded like the Vancouver Canucks had won the Stanley Cup.
It was hard to tell who was happier about the game-winning goal — the guy who scored it with 19.3 seconds remaining in overtime or his teammates.
Defenceman Chris Tanev’s first NHL goal, in his 63rd game, clearly struck a chord with his teammates, who roared with delight as Tanev was surrounded by reporters.
“Tan-Man, Tan-Man, Tan-man,” they chanted as the soft-spoken 23-year-old tried to talk about the biggest goal of his life.
“I don’t think we’ve ever seen a team this happy after Game 9 of the season winning a game in overtime,” laughed fellow defenceman Kevin Bieksa, who helped make it all happen when he tied the game with 2:17 remaining in the third period.
After some nice work in the offensive zone by the Sedins, Tanev skated in from the right point and put a shot past Oiler goalie Devan Dubnyk to give the Canucks a 3-2 come-from-behind win.
“It’s awesome,” Tanev said. “It took a while but I’ll definitely be keeping this puck. Hank and Danny with a little give-and-go and all the guys were watching them and I just came in off the blue line and shot it. I think their guy screened the goalie and it went in. I’m happy.”
Tanev’s shot is not his strength. In fact, it’s perhaps his only real weakness. He was been working all season with associate coach Rick Bowness on trying to improve his velocity.
“I have been working on my shot with Bones for a while now,” he said. “It’s still not where I want it to be, but I am trying to improve. It’s not always about how hard it is. It’s getting the shot off quickly with traffic in front.
“I was just trying to get it on net and pick a corner. Danny and Hank made an awesome play and got me some room where I had time to get it off.”
The over-the-top reaction from his teammates meant as much as the goal to Tanev.
“The reaction is awesome,” he said. ” Guys are pumped up and I thank them for everything.”
He should probably especially thank Roberto Luongo, who stopped Taylor Hall on an overtime penalty shot about two minutes earlier.
Luongo, making his fourth straight start, was again strong and made a number of big saves that kept the Canucks in the game.
The game finished much better than it started for the Canucks. They were awful in the first period, managing only five shots, but seemed to come to life in the second after Ryan Smyth’s shorthanded goal gave the Oilers a 2-0 lead.
“We kind of came out in the second with that shooting mentality and kind of took it to them,” Bieksa said. “We didn’t get discouraged when we were down, we chipped away and their goaltender played great and made some big saves. It was just going to be a matter of time before we got a bounce. We got it and Tan-man puts in the winner in overtime.”
Bieksa tied the game when he skated in from the right point and put a shot past Dubnyk’s glove side. It was Bieksa’s first goal and first point of the season.
“It’s been frustrating at times, but you know what, I feel like I have been playing good and have got a lot of good feedback from Bones and the coaching staff,” Bieska said. “It was just going to be a matter of time. They kept reminding me I am a streaky guy.”
The only goal of the first period came at 18:38 when Ales Hemsky scored on an Oiler power play. Hemsky got behind Alex Burrows and Jason Garrison to chase down a long pass from Nail Yakupov and beat Luongo with a backhand from in close.
The Oilers almost made it 2-0 with 5.8 seconds left in the first period, but Luongo came across his crease to make a big save on Hall after the Oiler winger had received a nice backhand pass from Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.
The Canucks, who were outshot 8-5 in the opening 20 minutes, really didn’t get much going offensively.
“We weren’t very good,” defenceman Keith Ballard said in a radio interview after the first period. “We have to wake up.”
The Canucks did, but not until after Smyth gave the Oilers a 2-0 lead with his shorthanded goal at 8:07 of the second.
Jannik Hansen got that one back four minutes later, when he finished off a nice individual effort behind the Edmonton net. Hansen won a puck battle in the corner with Oiler forward Lennart Petrell and his shot from behind the goal-line bounced off Dubnyk and into the net.
And what does Tanev plan to do with the game-winning puck?
“Maybe I’ll give it to my little brother or grandfather,” he said. They are both two of my biggest fans.”
ICE CHIPS: Andrew Ebbett, Andrew Alberts and Cam Barker were healthy scratches for the Canucks. . .Oilers defenceman Ryan Whitney was a healthy scratch for the first time in his NHL career. . .Edmonton captain Shawn Horcoff returned after missing two games with a strained neck but left the game in the second period with a hand injury. . .Oiler defenceman Mark Fistric did not return after suffering a back injury while attempting, and missing, a hip check on Schroeder in the first period. . .The Canucks, who outshot the Oilers 40-25, will travel today to Minnesota, where they meet the Wild on Thursday night.