After losing John Tortorella's debut as their coach, the Vancouver Canucks might have a good chance to deliver his first victory Saturday night with the Edmonton Oilers in town.
The Canucks look to continue their home success against the Oilers, who will try to avoid opening with consecutive defeats for the first time in 15 years.
This season began much like the last one ended for Vancouver, losing 4-1 on Thursday at San Jose in the same place the Sharks completed a first-round sweep of the Canucks. That second straight early playoff exit prompted the team to fire Alain Vigneault, who in a strange twist replaced the fired Tortorella as coach of the New York Rangers.
Tortorella's focus on toughness and tight defensive play showed at times Thursday when the Canucks killed all eight of San Jose's power plays, but they often struggled at even strength after defenseman Jason Garrison's first-period goal gave them a 1-0 lead.
"We have a lot to learn as far as tenacity, as far as being consistent on the puck," Tortorella told the NHL's official website. "I saw some very good things for minutes at a time."
After ranking 22nd with a 15.8 power-play percentage last season, Vancouver went 1 for 6. The Canucks also were outshot 35-22, but they aren't too concerned going forward.
"We had a couple of breakdowns but it's all a learning curve," forward Ryan Kesler said. "We want to be aggressive. That's who we are. That's our identity. I thought we played hard and played smart."
That approach has helped the Canucks earn at least one point in 17 of 20 home games versus Edmonton, including a 9-1-1 record over the past four seasons behind Henrik Sedin's 15 points. The Oilers are 0-4-1 in their last five visits to Vancouver while getting held to seven goals, including two shutouts.
Roberto Luongo posted a 1.70 goals-against average during his seven-game home winning streak against the Oilers that ended with a 3-2 shootout loss Jan. 20. He made 31 saves Thursday back in the role of the Canucks' No. 1 goaltender.
The Oilers appeared in good position to give Dallas Eakins a win in his NHL coaching debut Tuesday, leading Winnipeg 4-2 late in the second period. However, they gave up the tying and go-ahead goals in a 3:52 span midway through the third to lose 5-4.
"It's one thing when a team beats you, you can be OK with that, but not when you hand them the game like that," Eakins said. "It always hurts more when you give the other team something. I don't like sending them a fruit basket or flowers."
Ales Hemsky had a goal and an assist for the Oilers, who have missed the playoffs seven consecutive seasons but haven't opened with two straight losses since 1998-99.
Hemsky scored Edmonton's most recent goal at Vancouver, the same game he added another in the shootout against Luongo in January. The Oilers lost 4-0 in their next trip to Rogers Arena on April 4.
Devan Dubnyk could be back in Edmonton's net despite yielding all five goals Thursday. He allowed five or more twice in 38 games last season while posting a career-best 2.57 goals-against average.
Dubnyk was particularly good against the Canucks, going 3-0-1 with a 1.68 GAA.
Daniel Sedin has 12 goals and 10 assists in 18 career home games against Edmonton.
- Sports & Recreation
- Ice Hockey
- Vancouver Canucks
- Edmonton Oilers
- John Tortorella