VANCOUVER – Vancouver Canucks forward Daniel Sedin started the day saying he and twin brother Henrik Sedin would always be thankful to former coach Alain Vigneault for giving them the chance to be first-line players.
Later Thursday night, they proved again it was a good decision.
The twins celebrated their 33rd birthdays with three points – two goals for Henrik and an assist for Daniel – to welcome their former coach back to Rogers Arena by sparking the Canucks to a 5-0 rout of the New York Rangers.
It was billed as the NHL's first coaching trade, with Vigneault taking over for fired John Tortorella in New York, and Tortorella getting the Canucks job. But the men behind both benches were more concerned about getting their new teams comfortable with the system and style changes they've implemented.
The early edge went to Tortorella, who dressed most of his expected opening night roster, leaving out only defenseman Jason Garrison and suspended forwards Zack Kassian and Dale Weise. Forward David Booth, who was limited to 12 games last season due to injuries, made his debut as the Canucks got three assists from defenseman Alexander Edler, 41 saves from Roberto Luongo, and two goals from their power play to wrap up the preseason 2-4-0.
The Rangers re-signed their top scorer from last season, Derek Stepan, earlier in the day but he won't meet up with the team until Sunday in New York. The Rangers are also without Carl Hagelin and captain Ryan Callahan, both of whom are recovering from offseason shoulder surgery and expected to miss the start of the regular season. The Rangers, who fell to 1-4-0, wrap up their preseason schedule Friday night in Las Vegas against the Los Angeles Kings. They have played all of their preseason games on the road and will play their first nine regular-season games away from home while the renovation of Madison Square Garden concludes.
Both goalies are also adjusting to new systems, including where their defensemen are expected to be and whether they are supposed to block shots, an emphasis Tortorella brought from the Rangers to the Canucks.
Though his team was outshot 41-20, Luongo needed to make just a handful of really tough saves. He fought through the increased traffic behind the new zone-based, collapsing defensive system to get pieces of several deflected pucks, went cross-crease to rob Derick Brassard and Taylor Pyatt on odd-man rushes, and made a flashy glove stop off John Moore on a 3-on-2 in the third period.
It was a tougher night for Henrik Lundqvist, who was expected to play the whole game but made 12 saves before giving way to Martin Biron to start the third period.
Lundqvist was knocked down atop his crease during an early Canucks power play as a blocked point shot bounced to his right; as he fell backwards, he knocked Sedin's shot from just above the goal line into his own net.
He whiffed on Frank Corrado's one-time knuckleball from the point with 5:11 left in the first period, with the puck dipping under and off his glove as defenseman Dan Girardi got out of the way to let him see the shot. Lundqvist had no chance on the third goal, as an in-tight deflection bounced off his left pad and straight to Sedin on the other side for a tap in at 1:12 of the second.
Tortorella, who is asking for more grit-and-grind offense out of his new team below the hash marks, will like that the second two goals both started with battles won down low or along the boards.
Lundqvist won't like the fourth or fifth goals.
After Kevin Bieksa dove to keep the puck in, Edler's high one-timer was deflected down by Ryan Kesler, catching Lundqvist awkwardly still on his skate as it went in low. The goaltender was on his knees when 18-year-old Hunter Shinkaruk beat him over the glove on the far side off a rush with 44 seconds left in the second period.