EDMONTON - It wasn't the Vancouver Canucks 5-4 pre-season victory over the Edmonton Oilers that will be remembered, but rather a scary third period hit.
And perhaps the coaches reaction to it.
The game itself was overshadowed by a wince-inducing incident five minutes into the third as Canuck Rick Rypien slammed Oiler defenceman Mathieu Roy into the boards behind the Edmonton net. Roy was briefly knocked unconscious and taken away on a stretcher, but does have movement in his extremities. Rypien was assessed a five minute major for charging.
Canucks coach Alain Vigneault thought the punishment didn't fit the crime in this case.
"Nobody likes to see a player get injured," he said. "But in my book, it wasn't a penalty. It's a player being told by his coach to forecheck, skate hard and steer the play. The defenceman has that responsibility, when he's getting that puck, if he turns at the same time as he's going to get hit, if he turns towards the boards.
"It's a physical, contact sport and unfortunately sometimes there are going to be some injuries."
Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish doubted his counterpart would feel this way if it was one of his players carried off.
"There is some culpability from Mathieu turning into it, but at the same time when you are going that speed, I don't want to say it was malicious as that hit we saw in Ottawa, but still the result was pretty damning," he said. "At the end of the day that's what you judge by. I'm sure if he saw one of his players run through the boards face-first and carried out on a stretcher he might rephrase those comments."
For his part, Rypien says there was definitely not intention to cause an injury.
"At the last second there I was committed to hitting him, but he kind of pulled up and went the other way. I probably could have eased up my speed a bit. I definitely don't feel good about it. You don't want to see a guy leaving the ice like that. It wasn't my intention to hurt him."
As for the game itself, Daniel Sedin had a goal and an assist and brother Henrik added three helpers to lead the Canucks attack.
Mason Raymond, Ryan Shannon, Markus Naslund and Ryan Kesler also scored for Vancouver, while Dustin Penner, Robert Nilsson, Sam Gagner and Shawn Horcoff replied for Edmonton.
The loss snapped a three-game exhibition winning streak for the Oilers, ending up 5-2 overall in pre-season play. Vancouver finished at 4-2-2.
"We've won the last couple games and we are doing some good things offensively," said Vancouver goalie Roberto Luongo, who made 34 stops in the contest. "We still have to work a little bit in our zone and on our penalty killing. We have to tighten that up, but offensively we have been doing some good things."
Vancouver struck first, scoring just three and a half minutes in as Henrik Sedin made a nifty backhand pass from behind the net to Mason Raymond who had a wide-open net to shoot at with Oilers starter Dwayne Roloson looking the other way.
The Canucks made it 2-0 with five minutes to go in the first on a two-man advantage on a similar play. This time it was Daniel Sedin with the backhand pass to catch Roloson out of position as Shannon picked up his second goal of the pre-season.
Edmonton was able to get one back on a two-man advantage of their own as Ales Hemsky found Penner in the slot and the controversial off-season restricted free agent put his first as an Oiler through the legs of Luongo to make it 2-1 after the first.
The Oilers evened the score midway through the second as a tic-tac-toe passing play connected just as a power play expired as pre-season standout Andrew Cogliano hit a streaking Nilsson to make it 2-2.
Edmonton had a glorious opportunity to take the lead three minutes later as a blistering slap shot from Raffi Torres landed on the goal-line behind Luongo, but he was able to turn around and scoop it up just in time.
The Oilers would get the lead before the period was out, however, as Gagner jumped off the bench with a Canucks penalty on the way and the Oilers first round pick found the puck in a scramble and beat Luongo with just 1.5 seconds left to put Edmonton ahead 3-2.
Mathieu Garon came in to relieve Roloson in the Edmonton net and had a rocky start, allowing goal on the first two shots he faced. Just 38 seconds into the third Canucks captain Naslund slid a backhand shot through his legs to tie the game and then Vancouver regained the lead two minutes later as Daniel Sedin wired a shot into the top corner on the power play.
Kesler gave the Canucks a two-goal lead after picking off a bad giveaway by Denis Grebeshkov at the Oiler blueline. Garon made a good stop on the initial shot but Kesler was able to bank the rebound off the ankle of Edmonton's Tom Gilbert and in to make it 5-3.
Horcoff was able to make it interesting at the end, putting a shot top shelf past Luongo with just under four minutes remaining.
Both teams will face San Jose to start the regular season as the Sharks visit Edmonton on Thursday before travelling to Vancouver on Friday.
Notes: It was the second pre-season meeting between the two teams. The Canucks won the first game 5-4 in Vancouver on Sept. 20a All six of the Oilers previous exhibition matches were decided by a single goal, with three games going into overtime and one into a shootouta Former Canuck Anson Carter was in the Oilers lineup, playing on the fourth line. Carter, at the Oilers camp as an unsigned walk-on, left his only other pre-season appearance early on after suffering a concussiona The Oilers have yet to name a team captain since shipping their last leader Jason Smith to Philadelphia in the off-season. Candidates for the post are believed to be Ethan Moreau, Steve Staios, Shawn Horcoff and Jarret Stoll. A decision is expected early in the week.