Horvat leads Canucks past Oilers
VANCOUVER, British Columbia — A summer of hard work is paying off for Bo Horvat.
Horvat scored a pair of goals to help the Vancouver Canucks overcome an early deficit and defeat the Edmonton Oilers 3-2 Saturday night in their NHL season-opening game.
Horvat demonstrated his strength by battling Edmonton defenders on both goals but also showed flashes of speed.
“That’s one of the things that has improved the most,” said the 22-year-old centre who is starting his fourth season. “We were working hard in the offseason with my power skating coach and trying to get faster on the ice.
“Speed is a huge part of the game nowadays.”
Horvat had struggled down the stretch last year, going the final 17 games without a goal, but still led the Canucks in scoring with 20 goals and 32 assists. He wanted a better start this year, especially after signing a six-year, $33 million contract.
“You always want to start off hot, you always want to start off strong,” Horvat said. “You look (around the league) all these guys scoring lots of goals already.
“It definitely helps my confidence.”
Brandon Sutter also scored for the Canucks in Travis Green’s first game as head coach.
Kris Russell and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored for the Oilers (1-1-0).
The Canucks got off to a slow start when Russell scored on Edmonton’s first shot with just 68 seconds gone in the game. He fired a puck through Canucks defenseman Erik Gudbranson’s legs that beat goaltender Jacob Markstrom on the short side.
It wasn’t the way Markstrom wanted to start his first season as Vancouver’s starting goaltender.
“It was a bad goal,” said Markstrom, who finished the game with 33 saves. “I have to have that.
“At the same time, I’ve waited too long to get rattled. I got a couple of shots to get a little feel. Midway through the first I felt like we all got into the game.”
Green said his players looked sluggish early but they managed to find their legs.
“We iced the puck four or five times in the first six or seven minutes,” he said. “We just weren’t sharp with the puck. We were standing around a little bit.
“I thought we found our game and played a pretty good game the last 50 minutes. I thought we had a hell of a game against a really good hockey team.”
Horvat tied the game 1-1 on a power play at 7:35 of the first. He muscled his way past defenseman Matt Benning and put a shot over the shoulder of Edmonton goaltender Cam Talbot.
“I saw I had the first guy beat and tried to go around the second guy,” said Horvat. “Once I got around him I wanted to drive the net as quick as I could.”
Sutter made it 2-1 Vancouver less than two minutes later after Russell mishandled the puck behind his own net. The puck rolled out front to a wide-open Sutter, who easily beat Talbot.
Horvat made it 3-1 with just 32 seconds gone in the second period. He wrestled the puck away from defenseman Oscar Klefbom behind the Edmonton net, then scored on a wrap-around that squirted between Talbot’s toe and the goal post.
That ended Talbot’s night after allowing three goals on seven shots. He was replaced by backup Laurent Brossoit, who stopped all 19 shots he faced.
Oilers coach Todd McLellan was frustrated with his team’s performance. Edmonton opened the season with a 3-0 win over the Calgary Flames.
“We made a large amount of mistakes tonight,” said McLellan. “Their chances, not only were they grade-A but they were triple-A.
“They are a quick, hard team and I don’t think we understood it. We killed seven penalties and that took a lot of players out of the game.”
Milan Lucic was frustrated with an Oilers power play that scored just once on five chances.
“The power play just hasn’t been good enough,” said Lucic. “I know we got a goal here tonight but we had another chance to tie the game.
“We just need to create more volume, maybe simplify things.”
NOTES: The Canucks scored goals on back-to-back shots in the first period. ... Vancouver’s average age on opening night was 26 years and 292 days. ... Canucks C Bo Horvat dressed after missing the final two preseason games with a shoulder injury. ... Healthy scratches were RW Brock Boeser, who led Vancouver with four preseason goals, D Alex Biega and D Derrick Pouliot, obtained last week in a trade with Pittsburgh. ... The Canucks play at home Tuesday against Ottawa. ... Oilers scratches were D Yokann Auvitu and RW Kailer Yamamoto. ... Oilers D Kris Russell had one goal in 68 games last season. ... The last time Edmonton lost in regulation to Vancouver was Nov. 19, 2014. ... The Oilers return home to play Winnipeg on Monday.