After a sluggish start to its regular-season opener, Edmonton eventually found its way by orchestrating a huge comeback to win.
Connor McDavid scored a hat trick and added an assist as the Oilers battled from a 3-0 deficit to take a 5-3 victory over the Vancouver Canucks on Wednesday.
“It was just not a good start for our group. It was the first game and maybe there was a little bit of jitters,” McDavid said. “It is not going to be perfect every night. You are not going to have the game you want every night and sometimes you get a win with your ‘B’ or ‘C’ game. It was certainly not our ‘A’ game to start, but we found a way to get our legs going and get ourselves back in it.”
Leon Draisaitl recorded a goal and two assists while Darnell Nurse also scored for the Oilers (1-0). Goaltender Jack Campbell made 33 saves in the victory.
“It wasn’t according to anyone’s script, for sure,” said Edmonton head coach Jay Woodcroft. “I don’t think we were sharp. I don’t think we were in sync early. We found a way to win the game, that’s a really good sign, but we can be better.”
Elias Pettersson, J.T. Miller and Andrei Kuzmenko all scored for the Canucks (0-1). Thatcher Demko stopped 20-of-24 shots he faced in the loss.
“That was pretty disappointing, I thought we came out pretty good in the first and special teams kind of cost us the game,” said Canucks defenceman Oliver Ekman-Larsson. “The power play wasn’t good enough and we couldn’t keep the puck out of our net on the (penalty kill).”
Edmonton looked to have a bad case of the nerves to start the contest and the Canucks took advantage, establishing an early 2-0 lead less than three minutes in.
Just 1:49 into the opening period, Oilers rookie forward Dylan Holloway coughed up the puck to Pettersson who had a clear lane to the net and was able to fish his own rebound out of the feet of Campbell and slip it in for a goal.
51 seconds later, Miller picked the top corner with a bullet past Campbell to double the lead.
Vancouver made it 3-0 on the power play just 39 seconds into the middle period as Miller made a perfect pass to give Kuzmenko a backdoor tap-in for his first goal in his NHL debut. Kuzmenko is the first player in Canucks history to score a power-play goal in his debut.
Edmonton got on the board 4:12 into the second frame as Draisaitl took a deflected pass at the side of the net and slammed it past Demko on a power play. The goal came with some controversy, however, as Evander Kane caught Vancouver's Quinn Hughes with a high stick to the face that went uncalled despite causing Hughes to bleed not long before the goal went in.
“He’s OK. They missed it, it happens,” said Canucks head coach Bruce Boudreau. “The game is pretty quick, unfortunately by them missing the play, it ends up in the back of our net and gives them a little bit of life.”
The Oilers pulled to within a goal with another power-play marker 14:01 into the second as a perfect three-way passing play saw the puck go from Zach Hyman to Draisaitl and then to McDavid for his first of the season.
Edmonton pulled even in dramatic fashion with 41 seconds left in the period on a two-on-one shorthanded break as Draisaitl fed it across to Nurse, who beat Demko with a one-timer.
The Oilers took their first lead 15:01 into the third period as McDavid orchestrated a give-and-go with Hyman before depositing his own rebound past Demko. It was McDavid’s 700th career point, becoming the sixth fastest player to hit the mark, only needing 488 games.
McDavid completed the hat trick with 25 seconds left as Kane dropped it back to him for an empty-net power-play goal, setting off a flurry of hats thrown onto the ice. It was his 11th career hat trick.
NOTES: It is the fourth consecutive season the Oilers began their campaign with a home game against the Canucks … Edmonton starts the season with a six-game homestand and plays nine of its first 12 at Rogers Place … The Canucks play their first five games on the road, waiting until Oct. 22 against Buffalo for their home opener … Edmonton was without forwards Kailer Yamamoto and Warren Foegele, forcing the cap-hindered squad to go with 11 forwards and six defencemen for the game … Vancouver was without Travis Dermott, Tyler Myers and Ilya Mikheyev. Ekman-Larsson did not take part in the morning skate but was able to play.
UP NEXT: Both teams return to action on Saturday, with the Canucks playing an afternoon game in Philadelphia against the Flyers. The Oilers will host the Calgary Flames in a rematch of last year’s second-round playoff series.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 12, 2022.