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Canucks 8 Kings 2: Offence from the defence in home opener


It’s been a long time since the Vancouver Canucks have been able to say that their defencemen are key cogs to the offence.

The way the team’s corps of blueliners performed in Wednesday night’s 8-2 home-opening win over the Los Angeles Kings suggested that attack from the back could once again be in the home team’s repertoire.

Quinn Hughes seems to grow in confidence with every game. He opened the scoring with a powerful power play slap shot in the first period and helped create the Canucks’ fifth goal.

Alex Edler and Tyler Myers once again played big minutes, the vast majority of the highly-effective kind. The Swede also netted his first of the season.

It was a spectacular win for the home time on a night when they also honoured their past by rolling out a quintet of legends — Dennis Kearns, Stan Smyl, Kirk McLean, Todd Bertuzzi and Daniel Sedin — as well as confirming the worst-kept secret in Vancouver: Bo Horvat is the newest Canucks captain , receiving his C from Orland Kurtenbach, the club’s first-ever skipper , and Henrik Sedin, the last man to wear the C.

The Canucks’ goals were scored by Hughes, Elias Pettersson, J.T. Miller, Tanev, Edler, Josh Leivo and two from Brandon Sutter. The Kings’ goals were scored by Tyler Toffoli and Sean Walker.

Here’s what we learned. ..

Wizardry

It’s not just that Hughes scored his goal with a hammer-like slap shot: it’s that he scored his first-period power play goal after having already put together a dazzling shift.

We know about his elite skating, where he shifts from one blade to the next, from one edge to the other, with barely an ounce of energy, it would seem. But to see it in action is still such a thrill for the fans, many of whom are seeing him glide about for the first time.

He led two rushes on the shift before he scored, one of which featured a nifty backhand pass, a skill fans will come to notice he demonstrates all the time. Those who watched him at the World Juniors last winter know about this.

And then there was the slap shot. He’s not a big man, but his shot was an absolute howitzer.

After his goal, the rookie was sporting a huge grin on his face.

“I think everyone was still buzzing from the start,” he said. “It’s just nice … I think that was a power play goal, right? (Yes, he was told) So we were oh-for on the power play so to just get a couple power play goals, it was good.”

In the third period, he jumped up in the rush to help create Tanev’s goal.

“Tanny’s goal was the best,” he said, when asked to compare the two goals he was involved in. “It was just fun. You know, just me and Tanny just getting together, I’d say that was my most fun part.”

He admitted his confidence is growing.

“I’ve told everyone from the start that I’m going to try to get better every game and from game 30 I think I’ll be a different player. And same thing goes, you know, for game 60,” he said post-game. “But I feel really good right now.”


Making his mark

It goes without saying this is a big year for Jacob Markstrom.

The Canucks need him to repeat his outstanding form from last season for there to be any hope of the playoffs.

And through three games, he’s been solid.

Against the Kings, he made a number of key saves, especially on the penalty kill.

In the first period, he made a save with his left leg while prone on the ice, stoning a would-be Los Angeles power play goal.

In the second, with his team down 5-on-3, he did the same, making a series of stops.

Altogether, he made 37 saves on the night.


Sutt the door

It was a great night for the centre-turned-winger. Sutter has been tasked with being Adam Gaudette’s safety net, but the pair have proven to be an intriguing offensive combination.

Gaudette has shown confidence with the puck since day one in training camp, while Sutter has been skating like his young self, showing no hint of the sports hernia that hobbled him so badly in 2018-19.

Sutter scored the game’s second goal, a quick-fire effort from the right faceoff dot, taking a pass from Jake Virtanen.

“Jake made a nice play to me and I just tried to turn and fire it as hard as I could and sometimes those go in,” Sutter said.

He also set up Pettersson’s goal, taking a long pass as he entered the Kings’ zone, making a button-hook turn to draw the Los Angeles defenders to him before making a back-hand pass through Los Angeles’ Alex Iaffalo to the on-rushing Pettersson.

Sutter said he knew that Pettersson had joined the rush from the bench and heard a shout from Tyler Myers, who had also jumped up into the play.

There was a bit of luck in how the pass made it through, he figured.

“When they work they always look good,” he said with a smile.

Sutter then banged home a loose puck for the Canucks’ eighth goal, which was confirmed by video review.

If Sutter can be an offensive influence like this most nights, the Canucks will be more than happy with the state of their third line.

Poppin’ Petey

The Alien was flying all night. It only made sense that he finally opened his account in the home opener.

Pettersson took a deflected back-hand pass from Sutter and calmly threaded a shot through Jonathan Quick to score his first even-strength goal since Feb. 5 in Washington.

He was playing faster overall, creating space for himself and his linemates.

“For me, playing a really good game was the most important and was the first thing on my mind,” Pettersson said. “And I think all my line had a really good game. And of course, nice relief to get a goal.”

Moving J.T. Miller onto his line added a dynamic that Micheal Ferland didn’t quite have. Miller is a powerful winger, but possesses a deft pair of hands too.

His goal was a true lucky bounce, as his pass out from the corner ricocheted off Ilya Kovalchuk’s feet and into the net behind Jonathan Quick, who didn’t get much help from his teammates all night.

Along with Brock Boeser — who, to some surprise, couldn’t find the handle to get off a shot on a few good open looks — the trio proved to be effective all night, dominating the shot-attempts count.


Tired Kings

The Kings played Tuesday night in Calgary, where they won in impressive fashion.

But it seems they left all their energy in Cowtown, as the third period was a nightmare for the visitors. The Canucks scored four goals and the Kings put up little fight against any of them.

By the time Leivo scored, set up by new captain Bo Horvat, the Kings’ resistance had gone limp.

Ferland backcheck miss on Toffoli goal

Ferland’s adjustment to Vancouver remains a work in progress. The viral infection he suffered during training camp knocked him on his back, literally, and in the days that followed he admitted he had work to do to get himself back up to full strength.

Coupled with playing on a totally new team, he’s struggled to make an impact so far.

On the first Los Angeles goal, he didn’t pick up Toffoli as the Kings’ winger came right down Broadway to collect a pass from Carl Grundstrom.

pjohnston@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/risingaction


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