Vancouver took on Edmonton in their season opener, jumping out to an early 2-0 lead after the first period. They extended their lead to 3-0, but ultimately fell 5-3 in a disappointing result which saw Connor McDavid post a hat-trick.
The Canucks played without Ilya Mikheyev, Travis Dermott and Tyler Myers, who are on injury reserve to begin the year. Several players made their debut for the team: forwards Andrei Kuzmenko, Curtis Lazar and Dakota Joshua; 22-year-old Nils Åman, a surprise inclusion in the opening night lineup; and Riley Stillman, recently acquired from the Chicago Blackhawks for Jason Dickinson and a second-round pick. Jack Rathbone, a left-handed defenseman and one of Vancouver’s top prospects, was scratched.
Elias Pettersson opened the scoring for the Canucks after driving the net and deftly potting his own rebound. J.T. Miller doubled Vancouver’s lead with a snipe over Oilers goalie Jack Campbell’s shoulder.
Canucks winger Kuzmenko, signed from KHL team SKA Saint Petersburg this summer, finished on the power play to extend the lead to 3-0, his first career NHL goal.
Leon Draisaitl scored on a power play, and McDavid soon joined him with a goal on the man advantage. Edmonton defenseman Darnell Nurse put home an equalizer with a short-handed one-timer off a Draisaitl pass.
The teams entered the third period tied, and with five minutes left in the game, McDavid put one past Thatcher Demko to give the Oilers the come-from-behind lead. Despite a Vancouver power play with minutes left, the Canucks were unable to capitalize, and McDavid capped off his hat-trick with an empty-netter in the final minute to seal the 5-3 victory.
Among Vancouver newcomers, Kuzmenko looked like a seamless fit in the team’s top-six. The 26-year-old forward was a stalwart on the power play throughout the game, and scored the team’s only goal at 5-on-4. The fourth line of Lazar, Joshua and Åman were not much of a factor, registering zero combined shots on goal. Stillman played solid and made some decent plays, including drawing a penalty against McDavid.
It will be interesting to monitor Rathbone’s situation if he is unable to earn minutes over players like Stillman, especially as Myers and Dermott return from injury.
Demko saved 20 of 24 shots, while Campbell, signed by Edmonton from the Maple Leafs this offseason, stopped 33.
The Canucks travel to face the Philadelphia Flyers, coached by former Vancouver bench boss John Tortorella, Saturday, Oct. 15 at 1 p.m.