The collapse against the Oilers serves as a reminder that the Canucks are still going
EDMONTON — Dream start. Nightmarish finish.
So begins another NHL season for the Vancouver Canucks, a talented and up-and-coming team striving to grow into something more substantial.
They should have had more on Wednesday, crushing the Edmonton Oilers in the first 21 minutes to build a three-goal lead, only to blow it on special teams and allow five straight goals in a 5-3 loss in of the opening night.
Connor McDavid, largely unseen in the first half of the game, finished with a hat trick. He and Leon Draisaitl won a game for the Oilers that their team should have lost. That’s what special players do.
The Canucks have 81 games left to play – a huge amount of time to correct their mistakes and establish the structure and consistency in their game that they need to return to the playoffs for only the second time since 2015.
But Wednesday was a reminder of the work to be done.
Good teams don’t blow 3-0 leads and get nothing from a game in which they were significantly superior to the opposition at even strength.
« It obviously stings a bit, » Canucks captain Bo Horvat said. “I think we did a lot of good things five against five. I thought for the majority of the game we carried the game. Obviously our power play let us down a bit. (But) it’s been a game and we’ll move on.
Forward JT Miller lamented: “They really had nothing. Five against five, we controlled the game all game. We had a few breakdowns, maybe two or three. Playing a team like that, you’ll take it anytime. I think we played very well and we’ll hang our hats on that. Tonight’s stuff is fixable, that’s for sure.
McDavid broke a 3-3 tie with 4:59 left in regulation, hitting his own rebound past goaltender Thatcher Demko after Canucks defenseman Quinn Hughes had his shot blocked inside the blue line. Edmonton then got caught on the wrong side of the puck and Oiler Zach Hyman when a three-on-two developed in the Vancouver zone.
McDavid finished his hat trick in an empty net with 25 seconds left, technically Edmonton’s third power-play goal of the night. They needed just four advantages and a total of 1:49 on the powerplay to snuff out the Canucks’ penalty kill, which was one of the torpedoes that sank Vancouver in the first six weeks of the last season.
The Canucks power play went 1-for-8 and inexcusably allowed a three-on-one shorthanded run that Darnell Nurse turned into the tying goal with 41 seconds left midway through the period.
« Disappointing, » Canucks defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson said. “I think we came out really good in the first and I think special teams kind of cost us tonight’s game. The power play wasn’t good enough and we couldn’t keep the puck out of our net on the PK.
« I think it was a good lesson for us. It’s the type of game… that you have to be able to close.
The Canucks need to go beyond learning lessons and moral victories this season. They travel to Philadelphia to face John Tortorella’s Flyers on Saturday.
« I don’t know if it’s more important or more critical, » Vancouver coach Bruce Boudreau said Wednesday morning when asked about the start of the season. « They really know what happened when they didn’t have a good start (last year). I mean, our last 56 games, I think we were 10th in the league, and that didn’t make us still haven’t gotten anywhere. We’re all gonna lose two, three, four games in a row. But I mean, if you do that and you start bad, you’re deeper in (trouble). But if you have this little pillow, I mean, it makes life so much easier.
The Canucks had a big cushion against the Oilers, taking a 3-0 lead in 21 minutes.
Miller and Pettersson finished beautifully from Edmonton turnovers to make it 2-0 in the opening 2:40 of the game – the quickest 2-0 lead the Canucks have built on the night. franchise story opening.
Rookie Andrei Kuzmenko added to the lead just 39 seconds from the start of the middle period, scoring on a goal entry from Miller’s laser pass for Vancouver’s only power-play goal 12:15 from time. advance.
A smooth call against Canuck Tanner Pearson at 3:54 into the middle period — we’re guessing the score and power play was 3-0 for Vancouver at that point and that’s the NHL — gave the Oilers a chance to enter the Game.
They did, as Draisaitl scored from close range at 4:12. The Canucks were rightly upset with the goal that came seconds after Draisaitl punched Hughes in the face, causing him to pop like a tomato, without a call. Hughes was still trying to muster his gear and his wits when the puck came in.
But the Canucks couldn’t help but blame themselves when McDavid made it 3-2 at 14:01, finishing on a fast passing streak after Vancouver was penalized at 13:55 for too many players.
By then, the Canucks had given up almost nothing five-on-five, but allowed the Oilers to score two goals from two chances in a total of just 24 seconds.
Nurse tied the game at 19:19 after Pettersson’s turnover and Horvat’s weak backcheck made it three to one shorthanded.
Pettersson said after morning practice that the priority for the Canucks is to start with Game 1, as they played the last 57 games last year under Boudreau when they finished 32-15-10.
« We know what we can be when everyone is at their best and working their hardest, » Pettersson said. « It’s just about doing our job. »