The start of Vancouver's season-long journey began Monday night at Rexall Place in Edmonton, 169 days after the Canucks last laced up their skates to finish up the 2007-08 regular season.
A mishmash of Canucks players were up against an Oilers line-up that was fairly representative of what their roster should look like when the regular season rolls around, and their team chemistry was apparent early on.
Sheldon Souray put Edmonton ahead 1-0 just 1:21 into the opening period with a blast on the power play that eluded Vancouver goaltender Cory Schneider
, the zamboni had barely left the ice and the Canucks were already trailing on the scoreboard.
"Try break his stick I think, oh my goodness what a shot he's got," said Canucks assistant coach Ryan Walter. "There's no doubt you have to take away that pass, that one-timer is a bomb, everybody in the league knows it and it's got to be taken away."
Vancouver stormed back to even the score at 1-1 when Ryan Kesler
, P.C. Labrie and Jeff Cowan combined for a scrappy goal, Cowan charged to the net and propelled a loose puck past Edmonton's Mathieu Garon.
Coming into the game all eyes were on the youngsters with guys like Dan Gendur and Juraj Simek looking to crack Vancouver's roster, leave it to Cowan, who didn't score a goal all last season, to set the tone of the hockey game.
Having already come back to tie the game once, Vancouver knew that hanging their heads after Edmonton went up 2-1off an Eric Cole goal would do nothing, so they dug deep once again and used clam, controlled puck movement on the power play to even things up at 2-2 midway through the period.
Veteran Mattias Ohlund tied the game with his first point of the pre-season, Kyle Wellwood did the dirty work and got the puck to Daniel Sedin
who went tape-to-tape with Ohlund before he ripped it home.
It was no surprise when Edmonton once again took the lead in the second period, but no one was shocked when Vancouver eventually tied the game either.
The second period was dominated by the Oilers, they outshot the Canucks 15 to five, yet the tide turned in the final 20 minutes as Vancouver dictated the tempo and responded with 16 shots to Edmonton's four.
With 5:37 left to play rookie Dan Gendur, a standout with the WHL's Everett Silvertips last season, ferociously charged to the net and scooped the puck past Garon. It wasn't pretty, but it counted, and the never-quit Canucks forced overtime.
The extra five minutes didn't resolve anything, a shootout was needed to decipher a winner and with the way the Canucks had resiliently battled from behind all game, it was just a matter of time before they eventually took the lead for good.
Winning a shootout against the Oilers isn't as easy as it sounds though, last season Edmonton was 19-6 in shootouts, while Vancouver was 10-10 as the one-on-one showdown certainly wasn't as much fun for the Canucks.
Vancouver left the past in the past as Kyle Wellwood and Jason Krog both scored and Schneider turned aside two of three shots at the other end as the Canucks stole the game 4-3.
They never led until the final game horn sounded, but that's when it matters most.
"There's lots of teaching happening right now," said Walter in regards to the up and down game the Canucks played. "These kids might not make the NHL right now, certain amounts of them, but we hope they do in the future so we have to teach."
There were plenty of bright spots in this game for Vancouver, a come-from-behind win is impressive anytime, but the victory was almost overshadowed by the play of Schneider.
The Manitoba Moose netminder, who went 21-12-2 with a 2.28 goals against average and .916 save percentage in 36 games on the farm last season, was a major reason Edmonton didn't run away with this game.
Schneider turned aside 33 shots in all, including a barrage of pucks during an Oilers five-on-three in the second period, and was able to shut the door in the shootout when the Canucks needed him most.
The up-tempo play of forward Jeff Cowan was also a treat to watch. The 31-year-old not only scored his first goal since he netted the game winning goal in the second overtime of the Western Conference semifinal against the Anaheim Ducks on April 27, 2007, but he also battled hard all game and almost scored again in the third period.
Certainly the play of Gendur also has to be mentioned. He was relatively invisible for the first half of the contest, but he persevered and stuck to his game and the Canucks won because of his third period heroics.
Wellwood, Krog and Mason Raymond
were also all standouts for the Canucks. Wellwood looked very comfortable on the ice and was rewarded with time on the power play, Krog slashed and dashed his way to a few scoring chances before coming through in the shootout and Raymond provided a few scoring chances of his own while getting under the Oilers skin with his aggressive play.
Assitant coach Walter was impressed with the play of Wellwood, especially considering the spotlight he's been under since arriving in Vancouver.
"His hands are great, he moves the puck really well, he sees the ice well and finds Danny. He's getting there, he's got a long way to go but he's moving forward."
This was the first of back-to-back games between the Canucks and Oilers, the teams will battle it out again Tuesday night at GM Place.
Round one goes to the Canucks, although there are seven more games to be played between these Northwest Division foes this season, we can only hope they are all carbon copies of this one.