SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) – Facing a third-period deficit in a game crucial for Edmonton’s playoff positioning was just the kind of situation the Oilers were thinking about when they acquired Milan Lucic last summer.
He delivered in a big way.
Lucic scored three goals in the third period and the Oilers took a big step toward claiming home-ice advantage in the first round of the postseason by beating the San Jose Sharks 4-2 Thursday night in a possible playoff preview.
“His tonight was tremendous,” coach Todd McLellan said. “You throw the three goals out, even. His physicality, his ability to keep plays alive, power play execution, I thought he was tremendous. We’re lucky to have him at this time of the year. That’s exactly what we brought him in for.”
The Oilers moved two points ahead of the Sharks in the Pacific Division and can clinch home ice in the first round by earning one point in their final two games against Vancouver. Edmonton also is still alive in the division race if it wins the final two games and Anaheim loses its finale in regulation.
“We want to go into the playoffs with our game sharp and confident,” Lucic said. “There’s a lot to play for heading into these two games. Nothing is guaranteed.”
Connor McDavid scored his 30th goal to extend his point streak to 12 games and Oscar Klefbom had four assists for the Oilers, who have not started a playoff series at home since the 1991 Campbell Conference final. Cam Talbot made 13 saves to earn his franchise-record 41st win, breaking the mark set by Grant Fuhr in 1987-88.
Brent Burns and Joel Ward scored for the banged-up Sharks, who have not beaten a Western Conference playoff team since a win over Chicago on Jan. 31. Martin Jones made 28 saves.
“We’re still confident,” captain Joe Pavelski said. “We would’ve loved to win this game and had a chance to secure home ice here on Saturday. Now it’s out of our hands.”
San Jose played this crucial game without its top two centers with Joe Thornton (left knee) and Logan Couture (mouth) remaining sidelined by injuries. Both players are skating and remain hopeful that they will be ready for the playoffs next week.
The Sharks will need those two stars as they struggled to generate many scoring chances. Despite that, they led 2-1 heading into the third and had a golden chance to add to the lead when Marcus Sorensen earned a penalty shot early in the period that Talbot turned aside.
“If he scores there, we might not come back and win the game,” Talbot said. “A big save there gave us confidence going forward. I think that was what I trying to establish there. I was just trying to make him make the first move and stay patient.”
Lucic then took over with his third career hat trick. Seconds after the Sharks took a penalty for too many men on the ice, McDavid got the faceoff back to Klefbom, whose point shot was deflected by Lucic past Jones for the equalizer.
A few minutes later, Klefbom sent a puck from behind the net into the crease and Lucic poked it in for his 22nd goal of the season to give the Oilers the lead.
Lucic provided the insurance goal when he knocked in a rebound on a late power play.
“The last three games pucks just find me in the right place and I’m able to pounce on it,” he said.
The Oilers dominated play for long stretches after the opening minutes and finally got on the board early in the second when Klefbom’s shot pinballed off San Jose’s Tomas Hertl and Justin Braun before being kicked aside by Jones. The puck went right to McDavid, who was alone at the side of net. That helped give him the longest point streak for an Oilers player since Esa Tikkanen (13 games) and Mark Messier (12 games) in 1989.
The Sharks went back ahead midway through the second when Burns beat Talbot with a point shot through a screen for his 29th goal.
San Jose’s other goal came when on a deflection by Ward early in the first.
NOTES: McDavid has 22 points during his streak and leads the NHL with 97 overall this season. … Sharks D Marc-Edouard Vlasic recorded his 200th career assist on Ward’s goal. … San Jose’s Micheal Haley fought with Lucic late in the first period after the Sharks to offense to a hard hit on Chris Tierney.
Oilers: Visit Vancouver on Saturday.
Sharks: Host Calgary on Saturday.
(© Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)