. - Offence came in bunches for the Oilers Rookies, who easily handed the Canucks team an 8-2 loss in Edmonton’s first game of the 2015 Young Stars Tournament. The Oilers highly-talented trio of Connor McDavid, Darnell Nurse and Leon Draisaitl combined for three goals and two assists.
“I think the teams are pretty even here so it’s nice for us to get a couple guys on the scoresheet and score some goals and have a good first game of the tournament," said Draisaitl.
Braden Christoffer had the highlight of the first period when he broke open the scoring at 2:57. The Sherwood Park, AB native took the puck across the blueline, cut inside and through the defence before deftly slinging the puck past Canucks goaltender Clay Witt.
Christoffer’s tally was the lone marker of the first period, but the opening 20 minutes were not without fireworks.
A big, clean hit by Jake Virtanen sent McDavid to the ice along the boards, which only sparked more physicality. A few minutes later, Mitch Moroz retaliated with a big hit of his own on Virtanen and was sent to the sin bin for unsportsmanlike conduct after some words were exchanged.
Again, Virtanen was the subject of the Oilers aggression as he and Nurse sat two minutes each for roughing. Virtanen was taken sixth overall in 2014 by the Canucks and can really hit. He was able to continue to get under the Oilers Rookies skin the rest of the game.
As for the original hit on McDavid, the 2015 first-overall pick brushed it off.
“It's a hockey game, that stuff is gonna happen," he said.
McDavid clearly recognizes this is not the first or last time he'll get hit. That's something his coach expanded on after the game.
"I think he’s going to have to get used to that," Oilers Rookies Head Coach Gerry Fleming said. "It’s his first pro game and I’m sure that’s not going to be the last time that happens and I’m not sure that has been the first time that’s happened to him in the past. He’s a good player and there are going to be guys who come at him hard and that’s the way it’s going to be. He’s going to have to get used to it, if he’s already not used to it.”
Oilers goaltender Eetu Laurikainen is trying to impress the organization in his first North American hockey action since 2013-14. He spent last season in Finland. Laurikainen started strong with 12 saves in the first, including a huge blocker save on Rodrigo Abols, who was breaking in all alone.
Laurikainen’s night would end with just under seven minutes left in the second period. He finished his game with 17 saves on 17 shots.
Josh Winquist made it 2-0 Oilers just 1:35 into the second period. Draisaitl passed the puck out to the slot to Loik Leveille, who threw it inside where Winquist fired it past Witt.
The physicality of the game continued with Mackenze Stewart instigating a fight with Moroz. The Oilers winger got one good punch in on Stewart before the Canuck took him to the ice. Stewart earned two minutes for instigating, five for fighting and a 10-minute misconduct for his actions.
“I think everybody wants to prove something coming in here,” said Moroz. “You’ve got to be ready for that, on both sides. I think our guys responded well. You shouldn’t have to fight out here. It’s pretty early, but I got punched three times in my face before dropping my gloves. I ended up having to answer the bell there, but it was pretty chippy both ways. It’s fun for me to play like that but I know lots of guys are looking forward to playing a little more hockey the next few games.”
With just over eight minutes left in the second, Canucks forward Jared McCann missed high on a 3-on-1 rush and it came back to bite his team. Draisaitl took the puck coast to coast and his pass inside went in off a defenceman for the 3-0 lead.
The offence continued to pile on for the Oilers. Nurse floated a point shot past the Canucks goalie at 17:18 of the middle frame to give Edmonton a commanding 4-0 lead. McDavid tallied his first point of the game on that goal with an assist.
The Canucks did finally get on the board that period when Brendan Gaunce fired a shot past Oilers goalie Keven Bouchard, who replaced Laurikainen. That goal came with just 48.8 seconds left in the frame.
Connor Rankin put the Oilers Rookies up 5-1 when he picked off a pass and fired a shot past Witt at 2:25 of the third period.
Vancouver narrowed the score exactly one minute later. Ben Hutton beat Bouchard, with Gaunce getting an assist.
Shortly thereafter a big scrum behind the Oilers net took place with Edmonton taking offence to a late poke of Bouchard who made a sprawling save.
LaLeggia teed up Anton Slepyshev for a one-timer, which he hammered past Witt at 6:28 of the third for his first goal of the game and a 6-2 Oilers lead.
The game wouldn’t have been complete without a McDavid goal. It wasn’t a show-stopping highlight-reel tally but his shot off a Canucks stick gave Edmonton a 7-2 lead at 7:28 of the final period.
“It was alright," McDavid said of his first game as an Oiler. "I obviously could have played better personally, but the team did a great job and played a very good game for the first game of the year for a lot of guys, including myself.”
Kyle Platzer closed out the scoring with a shot from the slot with 2:27 remaining in the game. The Oilers took the 8-2 lead and held it the rest of the way.
Eight different Oilers players scored a goal, 13 registered at least a point.
The Oilers take on the Calgary Flames Saturday, at 8:30 p.m. MT.