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Canucks rally, edge Oilers in shootout

by Kevin Woodley

VANCOUVER -- It wasn't how Ryan Miller pictured his first start in front of the home fans, but the ending was exactly what the Vancouver Canucks had in mind when they signed the veteran goalie.

Miller overcame a rough start, making a couple of good stops on a late power play, then denied Jordan Eberle, David Perron and Benoit Pouliot in the shootout for a 5-4 win against the Edmonton Oilers at Rogers Arena on Saturday.

"It wasn't how I envisioned it going but [I'm] happy to get a win and to contribute later in the game," said Miller, who improved his NHL-leading shootout win total to 51. "I obviously want to clean myself up in the early parts but I was happy to settle down and contribute."

Miller, who signed a three-year, $18-million contract as a free agent on July 1, was beaten four times on the first 15 shots. But he stopped the final 14, including a sprawling left-pad save on Taylor Hall with nine minutes left, before shutting the door in the shootout.

"The boys worked real hard and bailed me out," Miller said. "It's going to take all different ways this year so it's good to see they all stuck together and weren't phased by a couple tough goals."

Chris Higgins scored the only shootout goal for Vancouver, sneaking a wrist shot in off the glove of Oilers goalie Viktor Fasth. The Canucks, who practiced the shootout earlier this week after going 5-7 with the NHL's second-worst shootout percentage last season, started the season with two wins for the first time since 2008.

"It's nice to go over your routes and be comfortable where you're going to make your moves," Higgins said of the extra practice.

Vancouver overcame three two-goal deficits and tied the game when Linden Vey scored his first NHL goal on a power play 7:06 into the third period. Outshot 10-5 in the first period and trailing 4-2 midway through the second, the Canucks stormed back with help from seven straight power plays and finished with a 43-29 edge in shots on goal.

"The power play bailed us out," said Vancouver forward Radim Vrbata, who made it 4-3 with a power-play goal midway through the second period and assisted on Vey's power-play goal that tied it in the third.

Henrik Sedin and Nick Bonino scored and Daniel Sedin had three assists, including the 500th of his career, for the Canucks.

"It's frustrating," said Edmonton forward David Perron, who had two assists. "They are a good team and the Sedins have really bounced back this year so far. It's amazing to see how they play still. I remember when I came in the League and to see the level they still have all these years later, sometimes it's incredible the plays they can make and we weren't able to contain them tonight."

Coming off a season opening 5-2 loss to the Calgary Flames on home ice Thursday, the Oilers jumped out to a 2-0 lead when Teddy Purcell and Perron set up goals by defenseman Brad Hunt on a power play, and Mark Arcobello in the first period. After giving up three goals in the third period against the Flames, the Oilers again struggled late, undone by a steady parade to the penalty box.

"That really kills the guys going out there all the time [to kill penalties] and it kills the guys sitting on the bench too because you can't get into a groove that way," Oilers center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins said.

Edmonton coach Dallas Eakins stressed positives after the loss to Calgary and there were more in Vancouver, including Hunt's goal. But after a dismal start last season, Perron wasn't interested in looking for positives.

"Yeah, there were some good things but in the end it's five goals," he said. "I don't want to get in the pattern we got into last year."

Nail Yakupov and Jesse Joensuu scored and Fasth made 39 saves in his first start of the season for the Oilers.

"It's tough to lose a game like that, especially up a couple goals, but we can't get too down on ourselves," Nugent-Hopkins said.

Despite being outplayed for long stretches, Vancouver pulled within a goal when Henrik Sedin scored with 9.9 seconds left in the first period.

The Oilers regained momentum early in the second period when Yakupov restored the two-goal lead at 2:22. Yakupov skated down the left wing and cut behind Canucks defenseman Luca Sbisa before snapping a quick shot under the pads of Miller.

"I don't want to let those kind of goals in," Miller said. "The guys are working hard and they don't deserve to have that happen when they're chipping away. Good on them to push back."

The Canucks cut into the lead again two minutes later. Alexandre Burrows jumped to hold in an Oilers clearing attempt at the blue line and the puck went off his glove to Dan Hamuis, whose quick shot was deflected down off the ice in the slot by Bonino and bounced up and over Fasth's glove. The Oilers argued it should have been whistled down for a glove pass, but the goal counted and the Canucks had a great chance to tie it when Hall received a double-minor for high sticking Hamhuis on the next shift.

Instead, Edmonton restored its two-goal lead when Joensuu converted a shorthanded breakaway, but Vrbata scored before the power play ended, easily finishing off a blind spinning backhand pass from Daniel Sedin.

"The Sedin boys had their magic going," Eakins said.

Vancouver outshot the Oilers 21-8 in the second period thanks to four straight power plays and three more early in the third. The Canucks finally tied the game when Vey converted the third chance.

The goal came shortly after Nugent-Hopkins had his first NHL fight after taking an exception to a big hit from Hamhuis.

"It's something I had to get out of the way eventually I guess," said Nugent-Hopkins, who had one fight in junior hockey. "He had a good hit on me, it was a clean hit and we got up and I don't know what really sparked it. He's not a fighter so we kind of just looked at each other and probably both wanted to spark our team a little."

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