EDMONTON — It wasn’t much of a season, but the Edmonton Oilers managed to go out with a show-stopper to honour Ryan Smyth.
Taylor Hall had three assists to hit 80 points on the season as the Oilers celebrated veteran forward Smyth’s final game in style, coming away with a 5-2 victory over the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday.
“It was a special night,” said Hall.“To get a win and a nice win was great. Smitty wanted to go out on a win and a high note. That was his message before the game. We won it for him and it was good to see. It was a night I will never forget.”
Roman Horak, Jeff Petry, Will Acton, Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored for the Oilers (29-44-9) who snapped a two-game losing skid in their final game of the season.
The win moved the Oilers up a draft spot, as they leapfrogged the Florida Panthers into 28th place overall with Tuesday’s NHL draft lottery looming.
The fans, however, were more interested in seeing Smyth go out on a win after a career that saw him total 386 goals, 456 assists and 842 points in 1,270 career games. Smyth, was unable to get the power-play goal that would have given him the franchise record, remaining in a tie with Glenn Anderson at 126 for his career.
Smyth was loudly cheered all night and no show of respect could have been bigger than the Canucks players coming back out on the ice to shake his hand after the final whistle, before the sobbing Alberta native said goodbye to his coaches and teammates.
“I soaked every moment of it in,” Smyth said. “It was an awesome experience that I will never forget for the rest of my life. I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of putting on this jersey, and any jersey in the NHL. To see the fan appreciation form the start to the enda they are the best fans in the world. I am thoroughly honoured to stand up here today and say I enjoyed every moment.”
Shawn Matthias and Zack Kassian replied for the Canucks (35-35-11) who have not had a strong finishing run to their season, losing six of their last seven with one game still to be played.
“We gave them too many primary scoring chances and a team like that they’re going to score,” Kassian said. “We got a lot of shots, but we didn’t get a lot of scoring chances for us.”
However, even the Vancouver players were mainly interested in talking about Smyth’s final night and how they were glad to be able to go up to him after the game and pay their respects.
“We talked about having to do something for him,” said captain Henrik Sedin. “He’s been such a big part of the Oilers, you talk about a lot of big names and he’s up there with the best. It was fun to be a part of it.”
“It’s terrific,” added Canucks coach John Tortorella. “That’s what you love about our athletes in our game, it’s that mutual respect amongst one another after the game is over. Ryan Smyth deserves that and I thought our guys handled themselves very well.”
Edmonton started the scoring just 2:14 into the game as Steven Pinizzotto made a pass from behind the net to Horak in the slot and the recent AHL call-up rifled his first of the year past Canucks starting goalie Jacob Markstrom. The assist was Pinizzotto’s first-career NHL point.