Nugent-Hopkins thrilled the sellout crowd of 16,839 with his first NHL hat trick, but Vancouver defenseman Sami Salo had a pair of goals and an assist as the Canucks rallied to beat the Oilers 4-3 on Saturday night.
Nugent-Hopkins, the first player taken in the Entry Draft four months ago, completed his hat trick when he was credited with a power-play goal at 16:37 of the second period during a scramble to give the Oilers a 3-2 lead. But Alex Burrows got the Canucks even in the final minute of the middle period by redirecting Daniel Sedin's centering pass behind Devan Dubnyk.
Salo then got his second of the night and the season by firing a wrister from the high slot that went through traffic and past Dubnyk at 7:47 of the third period.
It was a classic example of a young team putting up a big effort only to have a more experienced team weather the storm and steal a win.
"We find ways to win games," said goalie Roberto Luongo, who stopped 23 of 26 shots.
"It's just that comfort level I think the guys have. Going into the third no matter what the score is we feel we can win."
The line of Nugent-Hopkins, Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle was the Oilers' best, though Edmonton appeared to run out of gas in the third period. After outshooting the Canucks 26-17 through 40 minutes, the Oilers managed just four shots in the third.
"We outplayed them for most of the game so it's disappointing to come up short," Nugent-Hopkins said.
The win gave the Canucks a split of their four-game road trip. They head home for a Tuesday night visit from the New York Rangers.
Vancouver opened the scoring at 8:49 of the opening period when Salo beat Dubnyk with a blast from the high slot. Nugent-Hopkins tied it at 13:44 with a power-play goal, one-timing a cross-crease pass.
The 18-year-old put the Oilers in front with his second of the night and third of the season, an artful deflection of Tom Gilbert's wrister with 49 seconds left in the period.
Salo's power-play blast turned into the tying goal at 4:19. His shot was deflected and came to Henrik Sedin, who buried the rebound from just in front of the goal line.
The line of Nugent-Hopkins, Hall and Eberle continued to dominate, drawing a pair of penalties and capitalizing on the second one when Nugent-Hopkins scored again to put the Oilers ahead 3-2.
"Everyone knows he's a good passer," Hall said, "but it was great to see him score tonight."
The sellout crowd showered the ice with hats as the goal was announced, forcing the officials to stop play.
"I definitely didn't expect to have that kind of a start. I just want to keep it going," said Nugent-Hopkins, who scored the Oilers' first goal of the season in last Sunday's opener against Pittsburgh.
His goal, he said, has been to crash the net and see what happens.
"The message from the coaches was to go hard into the blue paint and I've been trying to do that," he said.
But the goal by Burrows calmed things down for the Canucks, who then dominated the final 20 minutes -- much to the relief of their coach.
"You've got to give credit to the Oilers and especially their young line," Alain Vigneault said. "They were all over the place, it was a phenomenal (second) period by three young kids that all have a great skill set and a lot of speed and a lot of competitiveness. They really outplayed us in that second period.
"We were fortunate we were able to tie the game with a couple of seconds left in the second. That gave us momentum going into the third. And in the third period, with the game on the line, I thought we played real well. We didn't give them anything and we got a few scoring chances and were able to score on one of them. I'm happy about that."