VANCOUVER – The Vancouver Canucks’ top-line twins Daniel and Henrik Sedin have always enjoyed playing against the Edmonton Oilers.
In new coach John Tortorella’s system, it’s even more fun.
The Sedins, who average just under a point per game against the Oilers in their careers, combined for five points to spark the Canucks to a 6-2 win at Rogers Arena on Saturday night.
Unlike past seasons, when the Canucks sat back on early leads, they kept pouring it on Saturday, pressuring the Oilers into turnovers and mistakes with the more aggressive forecheck initiated by Tortorella, never taking their foot off the gas.
“We were aggressive, we put a lot of pressure on their D,” said Henrik, who had three assists, including on goals by Dan Hamhuis and Jannik Hansen 18 seconds apart late in the first period. “We didn’t really play this way the last couple of years, we were sitting back a little bit more and played a little more on the safe side.”
Daniel Sedin added a goal and an assist. Brad Richardson and Jason Garrison scored shorthanded, Ryan Kesler also scored and Roberto Luongo made 21 saves to help the Canucks win their home opener in dominant fashion.
“This is more fun for us getting more offensive chances for sure,” Henrik Sedin said.
It wasn’t fun for Oilers goalie Devan Dubnyk, who was chased after giving up five goals on 31 shots with more than six minutes left in the second period.
Edmonton coach Dallas Eakins, also in his first season, called it a mercy pull.
“I thought 31 shots was enough – poor kid,” Eakins said. “It was like the goalie in Slap Shot. It was craziness there for the poor kid, he’s in there battling and we're giving him no support and I just thought after 31 shots, that's enough.”
Tortorella stresses an aggressive forecheck and lots of shots, and the Canucks delivered both, outshooting Edmonton 44-23.
“We were pretty consistent tonight in our attack, so pretty satisfied with that part of our game,” Tortorella said. “We wanted to keep on playing.”
There wasn’t much consistency – at least not positively – for the Oilers, who got goals from Jeff Petry and Boyd Gordon, but fell to 0-2-0 after blowing a 4-2 lead on home ice and lost their season opener, 5-4, to the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday.
Edmonton is still without second-line center Sam Gagner after he had his jaw broken by the stick of suspended Canucks forward Zack Kassian in the preseason. No.1 center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins participated in the pre-game skate and is expected to return from offseason shoulder surgery Monday against the New Jersey Devils, but Eakins said it won’t matter who plays, or what system unless there is more compete.
“If you are not going to battle and win battles and compete like every shift is your last, you are not going to win in this League,” Eakins said. “I can coddle and yell and kick and scream and do all kinds of things, but it has to come from that dressing room.”
The Canucks were short a forward after top-line wing Alexandre Burrows injured his foot blocking a shot while killing a 5-on-3 in the season opening 4-1 loss to the San Jose Sharks. But it didn’t seem to matter against the Oilers, even after Petry opened the scoring on Edmonton's first shot from a bad angle 1:58 in.
The Oilers surged and had a chance to double the lead on a power play one minute later, but instead gave up the tying goal to Richardson on a shorthanded breakaway that ended with a deke between Dubnyk's legs.
“That’s a big goal for us,” Tortorella said. “They were feeling pretty good after scoring their goal … that’s an important goal to answer back quickly.”
It was all Vancouver after that.
Buoyed by three straight power plays, the Canucks finished the period with a 22-8 shot advantage and took the lead for good with two goals in the final 93 seconds.
Hamhuis started it with a lucky one, slapping a rolling puck from just inside the blue line that changed directions off the stick of Petry and caught Dubnyk moving the wrong way. It was the second goal in as many games Dubnyk has surrendered from long distance.
“I’ve got to start living cleaner or something – that’s two now” Dubnyk said. “I’ve got to find a way to get in front of it. It dropped about two feet. Got to find a way.”
Dubnyk didn't have much of a chance on the next shift, however, as the Sedin twins forced two turnovers in the Edmonton end, passing it back and forth before spotting Hansen for a one-timer in the slot. The Sedins were at it again on a power play 7:21 into the second period, with Henrik making a blind spinning backhand pass from the left slot to Daniel on the other side for an easy goal past the diving Dubnyk.
“If you give them space like that they are going to pop it around,” Dubnyk said.
A lack of discipline didn’t help the Oilers, who were shorthanded six times.
Daniel Sedin’s goal came with Taylor Hall serving a boarding penalty for riding Dale Weise, who was suspended three preseason games for a head check on Hall, into the boards. Hall was also on the ice for four other Vancouver goals.
"We got outplayed right from the start, a lot of battles lost,” Hall said. “They just took it to us and we couldn't recover. There are lots of things we have to improve on.”
It was one of just a couple contentious moments between the rivals, whose last preseason meeting resulted in two Canucks suspensions and a broken jaw for Gagner. The bouts Saturday included Kesler and Will Acton fighting late in the first period, and Tortorella yelling at Oilers assistant coach Keith Acton – Will’s father.
Tortorella said he was upset Acton was “yapping” at Vancouver players.
“There was a lot of chatter from the ice to the bench and it was returned from the bench,” Eakins said. “Whatever, it was two tiny guys getting ready to fight.”
Hansen and David Perron were in the penalty box for roughing when Kesler ended Dubyk’s night with a wrist shot through a screen from atop the left faceoff circle.
"That's the way we want to play,” said Kesler, who had nine shots. “We let up that early goal, but we responded right away and kept coming and they cracked.”