EDMONTON -- With the Edmonton Oilers struggling to stay alive in the playoff race and the Vancouver Canucks coming to town on a six-game winning streak, this game had blowout written all over it.
That's exactly what it was. Only it was Vancouver on the wrong end of the onslaught. And it was over quickly. After five shots.
The Oilers scored on four of them, three by Taylor Hall and one from Ladislav Smid to chase Vancouver's starting goalie, rattle their back-up and send Rexall Place into a frenzy.
"I never had a start like that," said Hall, who scored his ninth, 10th and 11th of the season in the 4-0 victory. "Not even in Junior. I've had some hot starts with assists, but as far as goal scoring, and stuff going in right off the bat, I've never had that. It was definitely exciting. I don't think it'll ever happen again, but I'll definitely try."
This one was over in a hurry. Hall put one into the top corner at 16 seconds. Smid scored on a point shot at 2:05. Hall put one into the other corner at 2:43 and then scored his third of the night, between the goalie's legs from close range, on the power play at 7:53.
"We're looking for the odd exploit from somebody," said coach Ralph Krueger. "To get a hat-trick and to get Taylor to do it and to set records and those kind of things is always fun, but it's back to work tomorrow, but they should enjoy this one tonight."
The Canucks, meanwhile, didn't know what hit them. Starting goaltender Cory Schneider was on the bench after giving up two goals on two shots in 2:05, reliever Roberto Luongo had given up two goals on his first three shots and by the end of the first period, 15 of Vancouver's 18 skaters were in the minus figures.
"It's a tough start, for sure," said Canucks defenseman Kevin Bieksa. "You try to minimize the damage, but two turns into four pretty quickly."
Vancouver had been on a tough schedule (six games in 10 days), but Bieksa didn't want to use that as an excuse.
"Just mental errors," he said. "We gave them too much time and space and it hurt us."
This was the first of many measuring sticks for the Oilers, who'll be facing a steady diet of high-caliber teams down the stretch. They play Anaheim three times, Minnesota twice, Vancouver twice and have singles with Los Angeles and Chicago in their final 14 games.
"We believe we're as good as the top teams, and we've shown it," said goalie Devan Dubnyk, who had a 23-save shutout. "We know we can compete and be right up there and we've shown it against the top teams."
The Canucks, meanwhile, are in a dogfight with Minnesota for first place in the Northwest division.
"For the first time since I've been here it's actually a race to the title," said center Jannik Hansen. "It's healthy competition. Maybe we've had it a little too easy in the past, especially last year, coasting into the playoffs and expecting to turn it on.
"This year we've had to fight for pretty much every point we've got. But it can only mean we're a little more battle ready and tested."
NOTES: Three goals in the first 2:43 were the fastest three goals from the start of a game in franchise history, breaking the record set back in 1981. ... Hall's hat trick broke Wayne Gretzky's record for fastest hat trick from the start of a game by almost five minutes (7:53 to 12:38). ... The last time a team scored three goals on its first three shots was Oct. 14, 2009 when the Dallas Stars did it against the Nashville Predators. ... Before getting yanked after two goals on two shots in the first 2:05, Schneider had a six-game winning streak during which he had a .964 save percentage and 0.99 goals against average. ... Oilers center Sam Gagner played his 400th NHL game... Canucks captain Henrik Sedin extended his ironman streak to 616 games, the seventh longest in NHL history. ... Prior to Saturday night, the Canucks had allowed six goals in their last six games.