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Brock Boeser scores twice, Vancouver defeats Edmonton 5-3 in season opener

EDMONTON — Brock Boeser and the Vancouver Canucks took advantage of the Edmonton Oilers' defensive lapses to win their opening game of the NHL season Wednesday night.

Boeser scored twice in the third, including the winner, in the 5-3 win in front of no fans and canned crowd noise at Rogers Place.

Bo Horvat, Adam Gaudette, and rookie Nils Hoglander also scored for Vancouver. Braden Holtby made 28 saves for his first win as a Canuck.

Kailer Yamamoto, Darnell Nurse and Adam Larsson replied for Edmonton. Mikko Koskinen stopped 30-of-35 shots for the loss.

“I thought we played pretty well tonight. Obviously, there are still things we got to clean up but for the most part I thought the guys battled really hard,” said Horvat.

“We kept our game simple fairly early and let our skill take over after that.”

Vancouver head coach Travis Green said Boeser’s game has gone up a notch.

 “I think he’s worked on his shot. He’s worked on his release,” said Green.

“Even the second goal, I don’t know if he scores that goal a year ago. His release point, he can change it a little bit better. But it’s not just the goals. I thought his two-way game was solid tonight.”

Edmonton head coach Dave Tippett didn’t mince words on his team’s performance.

“Poor puck play and poor reads led to Grade-A chances against. Give enough of them and they’re going to capitalize,” said Tippett.

“If we want to be harder team to play against, those are the ones that have to come out of our game.”

The Canucks won despite not having winger J.T. Miller in the lineup. Miller, their top scorer from last season, and depth defenceman Jordie Benn had to sit out as per COVID-19 protocol.

Oiler captain Connor McDavid, playing on his 24th birthday, was held scoreless but buzzed around the net, driving on Holtby relentlessly and drawing multiple penalties.

Oilers centre Leon Draisaitl, the reigning Art Ross Trophy winner as the league’s top point getter, registered one assist.

Vancouver opened the scoring with less than five minutes to play in the first period. Tanner Pearson, racing with the puck up the right wing, managed, just before getting hit, to spin and put the puck on the tape of Horvat in the slot. Horvat skated in alone and shot the puck low stick side past Koskinen.

The Oilers tied the game early in the second. Draisaitl, off a turnover, fed the puck to Yamamoto who one-timed the puck from the slot into the top corner.

Hoglander, the Swedish rookie, put Vancouver up 2-1 with less than three minutes to go in the second on a rebound after Edmonton failed to clear the puck out of its own end. 

The goals came in bunches in the third period, starting with Nurse’s wrist shot from the face-off circle just 10 seconds in.

Gaudette then scored on a cross-ice feed from Antoine Roussel to make it 3-2.

Less than two minutes later, Quinn Hughes, down on the ice near the blue line, managed to backhand the puck to an open Boeser in the slot, who fired low and in for a 4-2 lead.

Then Larsson fired a slapshot from the top of the face-off circle through traffic and in to cut the lead to 4-3.

Boeser then took a pass off the wall from Elias Pettersson to steam in on the right wing and fire the puck shortside over Koskinen’s shoulder.

The two teams play again in Edmonton Thursday night in what will be a 56-game regular-season sprint over 115 days. Due to cross-border COVID travel restrictions, the seven Canadian teams will play each other in the North Division.

Edmonton and Vancouver will play 10 times.

It was a return to familiar surroundings for both teams.

Edmonton hosted the NHL’s Western Conference playoffs and league’s final two playoff rounds last summer in the so-called playoff “bubble.” 

For Vancouver it was a breakout bubble. The Canucks, back in the playoffs for the first time since 2015, knocked off the defending Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues in the first round and pushed the Vegas Golden Knights to the brink before bowing out in seven games in the second round.

The Oilers ended their season with a major disappointment, losing in four games in the play-in round to the underdog Chicago Blackhawks.

In pre-game warmups, the Oilers skated out in their dark blue third jerseys, with their usual numbers but the name Moss on the back of every sweater to honour the memory of locker room attendant Joey Moss. 

Moss died in October at age 57. He was born with Down syndrome and through the years became a fan favourite, a city icon and an inspiration to many in the cause of inclusivity. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 13, 2021.

 

Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press