July 03, 2014

EDMONTON, Alberta (AP) Taylor Hall's record-setting game helped get the Edmonton Oilers closer in the Western Conference playoff race.

Hall had a hat trick and the Oilers scored early and often to make it three victories in a row for the first time this season, cruising past the Vancouver Canucks 4-0 on Saturday.

Devan Dubnyk made 23 stops for his second shutout of the season and Ladislav Smid also scored for the Oilers (14-13-7), who are 6-2-2 in their past 10 games.

Hall's third goal also set an Oilers record as the fastest hat trick to start a game at 7:53, beating 12:38 set by Wayne Gretzky in 1986.

``It's a pretty special moment that I will never forget,'' Hall said. ``Playing in an organization like this one, the records you are trying to break have been set by pretty legendary players.''

The Oilers are in a four-team tie one point back of eighth-seed St. Louis in the Western Conference playoff race.

``We're a whole different team right now,'' Oilers coach Ralph Krueger said. ``You can see the dynamics of the group evolving these last 10 games and the confidence level going up.

``The position we were in, almost out of it three games ago, and now we are right back at the line.''

Hall said it is great to see his team in the thick of the race for a playoff spot.

``There are so many ups and downs during the season and when the lows are really low you have to remember times like this,'' he said. ``You just go on a bit of a tear and you never know what spot you could end up in. We're really excited to be playing meaningful games right now and we have to make use of them.''

The Canucks (19-10-6) had their six-game winning streak ended.

``At the start of the game it just seemed like they were in fifth gear and we were in third gear,'' said Canucks goalie Cory Schneider, who was pulled after allowing two goals on the first two shots of the game.

``I don't (know) the reason for that. It was an ugly first 10 minutes, but after that we had some push-back and settled the game down. Unfortunately the damage had been done already.

``Maybe it's a good wakeup call for us.''

Edmonton was unstoppable to begin the game, scoring on its first three shots.

The Oilers got to Schneider quickly, scoring just 16 seconds in on the first shot of the game.

Hall was able to come in wide with speed for a breakaway and sent a shot glove-side over Schneider's shoulder for an early 1-0 Edmonton lead.

The Oilers scored on their second shot at 2:05 as Smid scored a goal on a shot from the point to make it 2-0 before many fans had taken their seats.

Roberto Luongo came in to replace Schneider, who had allowed just six goals over Vancouver's past six games and had a pair of shutouts in that span.

Luongo didn't fare much better as the Oilers then scored on their third shot of the game 2:43 into the first period. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins fed it through to a hard-charging Hall, who sent his second of the game stick-side past the Canucks goalie.

It was the fastest three goals from the start of the game in Edmonton's franchise history, breaking the record of three in 3:25 against Colorado in 1981.

Edmonton was far from done, making it 4-0 at 7:53 on its fifth shot as Hall earned his third career hat trick, stuffing it between Luongo's legs from the side of the net on the power play.

The Oilers had 11 first-period shots to 10 from the Canucks on Dubnyk.

Edmonton was coming back for more with eight minutes gone in the second period, but Luongo was able to make a nice glove save on a tip by Lennart Petrell.

There was no scoring in the second period, as Vancouver continued to lead in shots 18-14.

Hall came close to getting his fourth goal of the game with 7 1/2 minutes left in the third period, but Luongo made a diving save to keep the puck out of the net.

Notes: It was the third of five meetings between the division rivals this season, having split the previous two games, each win coming for the road team. Vancouver picked up a 3-2 overtime win in the most recent matchup in February. ... Despite struggling to score goals of late, Daniel Sedin still leads the Canucks in goals scored with 10 ... Vancouver forwards Zack Kassian (back) and Dale Weise (shoulder) were both out of the lineup, as was defenseman Keith Ballard (foot) was also absent with a minor foot fracture. ... Oilers forward Eric Belanger remained out with a groin injury ... Oilers forward Sam Gagner, who got his 250th point on Thursday, played in his 400th career NHL game.

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