Hockey

Oilers' top line a test for Luongo

Led by Dustin Penner, the Edmonton Oilers' No. 1 forward line has combined for 37 points in 29 games entering Sunday's date with the Canucks in Vancouver at 7 p.m. PT.

Penner, Gagner, Hemsky arrive in Vancouver with 37 points in 29 combined games

A better-conditioned Dustin Penner is pulling his weight and then some for the Edmonton Oilers.

The six-foot-four, 245-pound left-winger's second-period power-play goal in Saturday's 5-2 road loss to Calgary was his eighth in 10 games and 15th point, nearly half of last year's output of 37 points in 78 contests.

Penner's linemates, Sam Gagner and Ales Hemsky, added two assists apiece to give the Oilers — at least so far — their first legitimate No. 1 unit in some time.

Penner's line has combined for 37 points in 29 games entering Sunday's date with the Canucks in Vancouver at 7 p.m. PT.

That's the good news. The bad news is the Oilers, as a group, must be stronger mentally, an area that cost them dearly on Saturday.

"We were ready to answer physically tonight and probably did OK there, but we didn't play the game mentally," coach Pat Quinn told reporters after his team's third loss in regulation this season.

Edmonton, which dropped to 6-3-1, was guilty of loose defensive play and poor special teams as Calgary scored twice on the power play and once short-handed en route to its seventh win in 10 starts (7-2-1).

The fact the Oilers were minus five players to injury, two more with the flu and had at least three playing under the weather mattered little to Quinn.

"There's no excuse, we had a game to play," said the coach. "We started tonight expecting to win two points and if we'd stuck to the program we might have got two points, but we didn't stick to the program."

With the game tied 1-1, the Flames took control in the second period, outshooting Edmonton 19-9 and scoring three straight goals.

"We gave up two fast goals and then stopped playing," said Quinn. "We started to play solo hockey and that's not the way we're going to win; and I don't know any team that does win that way."

Vancouver wasn't much better Saturday in a 3-1 win over the visiting Toronto Maple Leafs, the NHL's worst team at 0-7-1.

The Canucks allowed three odd-man rushes in the first period but did take advantage of undisciplined play by the visitors — scoring twice on the power play — and were led by the 35-save performance from goalie Roberto Luongo.

"Probably the best game I've seen him play this year," said Canucks forward Ryan Kesler of Luongo, who entered the game with a 4-5-0 record, 3.07 goals-against average and .881 save percentage.

Vancouver (5-5-0) was also lucky as Toronto should have received a penalty shot with less than five minutes left in regulation when a Canucks player closed his hand on the puck, an infraction which was caught on television.

The speedy trio of Mason Raymond, Kesler and Michael Grabner combined for five points versus the Maple Leafs and is the line to watch Sunday.

Already down six regulars, Vancouver could be without forward Kyle Wellwood, who took a shot by Toronto's Mike Komisarek on the "top cap" of his right foot in the third period. Limping after the game, Wellwood is hopeful he won't land on injured reserve.

Canucks defenceman Mathieu Schneider is expected to play his first game since mid-April. A free agent signing, he last appeared in the Montreal Canadiens' first two playoff games before bowing out and having surgery on his right shoulder.

The Oilers took the first meeting of the season on Oct. 19, a 2-1 decision at Edmonton's Rexall Place, but Vancouver has won four of five games at General Motors Place.