Brock Boeser scored twice, including the winner, as the Vancouver Canucks downed the host Edmonton Oilers 5-3 on Wednesday in the 2020-21 NHL season opener for both teams.
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.
It was a back and forth game in front of no fans and canned crowd noise at Rogers Place.
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 McDavid, playing on his 24th birthday, was held scoreless but buzzed around the net, driving on Holtby relentlessly and drawing multiple penalties. Oiler centre Leon Draisaitl, the reigning Art Ross Trophy winner as the league’s top point getter last season, registered one assist.
Boeser scored twice in the third period to seal the win as the Canucks took advantage of numerous Oiler defensive breakdowns. 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 by Oiler Zack Kassian at Edmonton’s blue line, 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 of the net.
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.
Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press