The Vancouver Canucks dropped their season opener to the Los Angeles Kings 2-1 in a shootout Saturday night at Rogers Arena, exactly 40 years to the day that the Canucks played their first game in franchise history, a 3-1 loss to the Kings.
It was the same story four decades ago as it was on this night with a lack of scoring leading to Vancouver’s demise.
Christian Ehrhoff scored the lone Canucks goal on the power play midway through the second period. Planted in front of Kings keeper Jonathan Quick, Ehrhoff intercepted and poked in a cross-crease pass that Daniel Sedin had labeled for Ryan Kesler at the left post.
Justin Williams evened the game up on a Los Angeles power play late in the third to break Roberto Luongo’s bid for a second season opening shutout in three seasons when he chipped a puck in off a Dustin Brown point shot.
Luongo made 31 saves in all, including six in a frantic five-minute overtime that had the Kings up 4-on-3 for two minutes, which guaranteed a point for the Canucks and a shootout finale.
Mason Raymond and Kesler both missed on their attempts, while Anze Kopitar and Jack Johnson scored for the Kings.
"It was a hard fought game both sides, it came down to a shootout,” said Luongo. “When we get into those types of situations, it can go either way and unfortunately for us tonight, it didn't go our way.”
The Canucks fall to 0-0-1 to start the 2010-11 campaign and they now own a record of 21-16-3 in season openers. Vancouver still holds a 3-2 edge in wins over Los Angeles in five season openers.
Five newcomers donned a Canucks jersey for the first time in Vancouver’s season opener and three earned a standing ovation by the sellout crowd for their efforts in overtime.
With Kevin Bieksa in the box for interference, Dan Hamhuis, Keith Ballard and Manny Malhotra took the ice in front of Roberto Luongo. They got much more than they bargained for with the trio on the ice for the entire two-minute Kings power play, a man advantage that never left Vancouver's zone.
“It was a long time, I had the puck on my stick a couple of times and couldn’t quite get anything on it,” said Ballard, who blocked a pair of shots on the kill.
The Canucks allowed six shots and were it not for the stellar netminding of Luongo, a shootout wouldn’t have been needed.
“Lu was great behind us and obviously kicking rebounds out, anytime you can deflect them out into the corners, it’s big for us,” added Ballard. “The three of us just kind of made our little triangle tighter as it went on and tried to keep the shots outside so Lu could see the puck.”
Ballard finished with five blocked shots and a pair of hits in 17:34 of ice time, while Hamhuis had three blocks and three hits in over 25 minutes. Malhotra, skating between Peter Schaefer and Jannik Hansen on the third line, recorded two shots, a hit and a takeaway while going 9-for-18 on faceoffs in 16:34.
There were plenty of options, but he was really the only choice.
Prior to the game the Canucks named Henrik Sedin their new captain making him the 13th player in franchise history to sport the "C". Vancouver’s decision to name the defending Art Trophy winner and NHL MVP captain was revealed during an on-ice presentation between Henrik and Orland Kurtenbach, the first captain in team history.
Kurtenbach handed Henrik a vintage 1970’s Canucks jersey, complete with the C in place, which Hank was quick to throw over his shoulders.
“It was a very good job by the organization,” said Henrik of the ceremony. “Very emotional for sure with everything that went on and I’m very proud with the guys that have been captains before me, it’s a great honour for sure.”
To Canucks general manager Mike Gillis, the decision to name Henrik captain was a relatively easy one.
“Henrik Sedin embodies the principles of this organization and all of the qualities of a leader through his honesty, integrity and discipline,” said Gillis. “Henrik is an exemplary leader who inspires teammates with a work ethic and desire to continually evolve his game. We are proud to name him as team captain.”
Put to the test right off the bat, Henrik was asked to name his assistant captains and he chose Daniel Sedin, Ryan Kesler, Manny Malhotra and Kevin Bieksa.
“I think it was pretty easy,” said Henrik of his selections. “For Daniel, we’re the same type of guys and it’s always been like this. It’s been a long time, he’s got a lot of respect from all the players here so it was an easy choice. Kes was last year, he did a great job and Juice and Manny, they’re both very outspoken so it was easy choices.”
Vancouver’s season opener was the final game for Team 1040 colour commentator Tom Larscheid who is retiring after 33 years behind the mic doing Canucks broadcasts; the Canucks and Kings literally turned back the clock to 1970 with their attire for this game as Vancouver sported their original white, blue and green stick-in-rink sweaters, while Los Angeles went to purple and yellow with a crown on the crest; Jannik Hansen led the Canucks in hits with five.