October 08, 2016 - 9:34 AM
VANCOUVER - An average night was enough to get Loui Eriksson two goals in his debut for the Vancouver Canucks.
The big-money off-season signing had one shot got in off his foot and was the beneficiary of another fortuitous bounce for his second of the night Thursday as the Canucks picked up a 4-0 exhibition victory over the Calgary Flames.
Eriksson, who joined Vancouver from the Boston Bruins this summer after inking a six-year, US$36-million deal, and linemates Henrik and Daniel Sedin saw their first action of the pre-season after the trio played together for Sweden at the World Cup of Hockey.
Canucks head coach Willie Desjardins said the goals were nice — Daniel assisted on Eriksson's first, while Henrik helped out on the second — but added there's lots of room to grow.
"It's interesting. That's the difference," said Desjardins. "I didn't think they had a great game, but when you're skilled like that line you can have an average game and still (score) two goals or three goals just because they know where the net is and they know how to finish.
"It was good for Loui to come in and get that kind of start."
Jake Virtanen and Brandon Sutter also scored, while Ryan Miller made 35 saves in the shutout for the Canucks, who dressed as close to an NHL lineup as they have during the exhibition schedule.
"For sure we can do better," Eriksson in assessing the top line's night. "That's the good thing."
Chad Johnson stopped 22 shots for the undermanned Flames, who left a number of veterans at home, including Mark Giordano, Troy Brouwer, Michael Frolik and Sam Bennett.
Leading 2-0 after the first period, Vancouver stretched its lead to three moments after a Calgary penalty expired and following a good stretch of control in the Flames zone from the No. 1 power-play unit that included Sutter, Eriksson, the Sedins and Philip Larsen.
Daniel Sedin took a pass from Larsen on the side boards and ripped a shot that glanced off Eriksson's skate and past Johnson at 11:43.
The Canucks were a disastrous 27th with the man advantage in 2015-16, and although it was only pre-season, there were encouraging signs Thursday with quicker passes and more movement.
"We can play better, but it's nice to know you can win 4-0 without playing your best game," said Henrik Sedin. "The few power plays we got, good puck movement. It felt like we found our spots."
Eriksson added his second of the night with 6:32 to go in the third when Flames defenceman Dennis Wideman tried to bat a puck out of the air only to see it bounce in front to the Swede, who swatted it past a helpless Johnson.
"(Eriksson) was a nice presence in front of the net there and then got rewarded with a fun bounce," said Miller. "Hopefully the bounces are as nice to us this year as they were tonight for Loui."
Coming off a first season with the Canucks that saw him play just 20 games because of injury, Sutter opened the scoring at 12:50 of the opening period, roofing a shot past Johnson on a short-handed 2-on-1 rush.
Calgary had a good chance at the other end, but Miller stopped Micheal Ferland on the doorstep with under four minutes to play before Virtanen doubled Vancouver's advantage with 2:20 left when he buried a feed from Markus Granlund after some great work by Sven Baertschi behind the Calgary net.
Virtanen is in a battle with a couple of veteran forwards for an NHL job with the season just around the corner, mainly because the 20-year-old doesn't require waivers to be sent down to the club's AHL affiliate.
"I would rather be here and learn from (the Sedins) and play against the best guys in the world," said Virtanen. "I've got to show that I belong."
Notes: Calgary forward Sean Monahan played his first game of the pre-season after recovering from a back strain that kept him out of the World Cup. ... The Flames were playing their pre-season finale, while the Canucks visit the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday to wrap up their exhibition schedule.
News from © The Canadian Press, 2016