VANCOUVER, BC - A wild home opener for the Canucks saw the visiting Oilers get out to a 2-0 lead, but Vancouver pulled off the comeback with a 5-4 shootout win at Rogers Arena.
“Of course they’re going to take it hard, it was a very emotional game out there for both teams,” Oilers Head Coach Dallas Eakins said of his team following the loss. “Everyone was in it and when it’s that close and you get it to overtime, then you’re under siege and then you get it to a shootout you’re trying to do everything you can to do it. It’s good that you take the losses hard. I’ve never seen a team that took it easy. Of course they’re going to take it hard and we take it hard and we’ll take the point, put it in the bank and get ready to try and win the next game.”
The Oilers said Brad Hunt earned a roster spot to open the season because of his ability on the power play and his willingness to shoot. He put those characteristics on display when he scored his first NHL goal at 5:41 of the first period.
On top of it being his first NHL goal, Hunt scored it in his home province. The defenceman is from Ridge Meadows, BC.
Alexandre Burrows took a tripping penalty at 4:26 to give the Oilers the first power play of the night. David Perron passed the puck to Teddy Purcell, who lined up Hunt for the one-timer. The Oilers defenceman unleashed a rocket that sizzled by goaltender Ryan Miller.
Edmonton took the 2-0 lead at 10:31 of the first. Perron walked the puck over the blueline, passed it down low to Purcell who threw it on net. Mark Arcobello was there at the backdoor post and he swept the puck in the net for his first goal of the season.
The Oilers appeared to be in business, but the Canucks broke the shutout with 9.9 seconds left in the first. Daniel Sedin’s shot was tipped in by Henrik Sedin to make it a 2-1 game. The assist was the 500th of Daniel Sedin’s career.
The Oilers bounced back at 2:21 of the second period. Benoit Pouliot left a pass for Nail Yakupov at the blueline and the first-overall pick in 2012 walked in and tucked a shot under the pad of Miller.
Nick Bonino made it a one-goal game again at 4:26 of the second. Dan Hamuis recorded the assist.
Following that Vancouver goal, Jordan Eberle took a high-sticking penalty. Immediately off the ensuing draw, Vancouver put pressure on Oilers goalie Viktor Fasth, who was making his first start of the season. After a scramble and pressure out in front, Fasth covered up.
“I think we played good for most parts of the game,” Fasth said. “They punished us on our PK. We got a lot of penalties today and that’s a tough team to beat when you’re in the box. I think overall we played really good. I could see for the fans how it would be a fun game to watch.”
At 8:10 of the second, Fasth made a save and Burrows jabbed him with his stick, trying to poke the puck in over the line. Oilers Captain Andrew Ference pulled Burrows down from behind after the play as a scrum formed near the net.
The play was reviewed but a whistle was blown before the puck went in the net. That left the Canucks still searching for the game-tying goal.
Oilers winger Taylor Hall took a double minor high-sticking penalty at 7:38 of the middle frame.
Shorthanded, Arcobello stole the puck in the neutral zone and gave Jesse Joensuu a chance to spring free. Joensuu went one-on-one with Miller and put a nice move on the goaltender before sinking the backhanded breakaway goal at 8:36. Mark Fayne had the second assist on the goal.
Once again, Vancouver would overcome the adversity. Radim Vrbata scored at 10:48, assisted by the Sedin brothers.
Fasth stood tall in net for the Oilers in that second period, facing a 21-shot onslaught by the Canucks.
6:21 into the third period, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins dropped the gloves to fight Dan Hamhuis after a collision. The intensity of the game continued to rise.
“That’s hockey,” Eakins said. “There’s going to be emotion. These young men are full of testosterone and there’s going to be confrontation. That’s good on Nuge, I thought he did very well.”
It was Nugent-Hopkins’ first NHL fight.
“He had a good hit on me,” Nugent-Hopkins said. “It was a clean hit and then we kind of just got up and I don’t really know what sparked it too much. We were kind of throwing it back-and-forth a little bit and then we decided to go. It was something I had to get out of the way eventually I guess. He just got me clean there, there wasn’t anything dirty about it.”
Linden Vey netted a power play goal on a shot from the slot at 7:06 of the third. Daniel Sedin and Vrbata got the helpers as the Canucks tied the game 4-4.
The Oilers got a power play opportunity at 16:44 of the third period when Yakupov was tripped up by Vrbata. They had a few big scoring chances, but Miller made the saves.
With both teams unable to grab the go-ahead score, the game went to overtime. The Canucks poured on the pressure but couldn’t score in overtime, pushing the game to a shootout.
Fasth made an impressive 39 saves in the loss, including five in overtime, but was disappointed in one thing.
“Not good enough because we didn’t win,” Fasth said of his night.
But his head coach thought differently.
“I really liked Viktor’s game,” Eakins said. “Was it the second goal that bounced on its way? Then there were a couple of crazy ones that went in on him. But I thought he was really really solid and he kept us in it, especially in overtime. We were done, gassed and the Sedin boys there had their magic going. That’s when he really shut the door for us.”
In the shootout, the lone scorer was Vancouver’s Chris Higgins as the Canucks took the 5-4 win.