With the Vancouver Canucks and Edmonton Oilers both 3-0 in pre-season play heading into Saturday night’s game at GM Place, something had to give.
Darcy Hordichuk ensured the Canucks remained undefeated.
Hordichuk, channeling his inner-50 goal scorer, netted the game-winning goal with less than 10 minutes to play in the third period to lift the Canucks to a 3-1 win over the Oilers.
After Ryan Kesler got the puck to Jannik Hansen just outside the Oilers blueline, the Great Dane flew down the right wing before hitting a streaking Hordichuk with a picture perfect pass in front of the net.
Hordichuk froze netminder Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers like a deer in headlights and backhanded in his first goal of the pre-season.
“Honestly, I didn’t even know what I was doing there,” laughed Hordi after the game. “Burrows told me before the period there to go top cheese and I was thinking top cheese all the way down and I tried to freeze him and throw it to my backhand. I’ve seen Samuelsson score a few of those in practice, so I thought why not.
“It’s all in dropping your shoulder and getting the goalie to bite and trying to get it top shelf. It didn’t go top shelf, it went bottom right corner, but as long as they go in, that’s all that counts.”
Alex Edler scored the first Canucks goal, a power play marker that opened the scoring midway through the opening period, while Ryan Kesler picked up two helpers on the night to help Vancouver improve to 4-0-0 in exhibition play.
This was Cody Hodgson’s pre-season debut and he chipped in on the scoresheet scoring an empty net goal to put the game away late in the third. The hardworking forward was highly visible on offence all night skating alongside Mikael Samuelsson and Alex Bolduc.
Although Hodgson said nerves got the best of him in the early going, he was able to settle into a groove and he felt right at home on the ice.
“I felt great,” said Hodgson, who has been nursing a back injury and took a puck to the same tender spot in the second but proved to be fine.
“This week of practice really helped me and got me up to speed. I felt great and I played with some great wingers in Bolduc and Samuelsson and I think we did well tonight.”
While Vancouver’s 6-2 win over San Jose on Friday was a display of the team’s offensive capability, on this night it was the defence that took charge led by the last line of defence Roberto Luongo.
Playing in his first full exhibition game, Luongo stopped 22 of 23 shots with his only blemish coming with seven second remaining in the first period when a harmless Sheldon Souray shot eluded him thanks to a beautiful unintentional screen by Canucks defenceman Kevin Bieksa.
The Souray goal is the only puck that’s gotten past Luongo in five periods of play this pre-season and he said his timing and rhythm are right where he wants them to be.
“I’ve been feeling good both games so it’s a good sign,” said Luongo. “You just want to make sure that you keep building on that and carry it into the start of the season because last year I felt pretty good in the pre-season and then obviously after the first game I had a little bit of a let down.
“I just want to keep building on the habits that I’ve been working on in practice and make sure that once the season starts here, it carries through.”
Vancouver outshot Edmonton 33-23 overall, while finishing 1-for-4 on the power play and holding the Oilers to no goals on four power play attempts. The Canucks have now stoned their opposition’s power play twice over the last two games.
The Canucks return to the ice Monday night when they’ll play host to the Calgary Flames. Game time is 7 p.m. PST and can be seen live on Canucks.com.