PENTICTON, B.C. — The Edmonton Oilers are more concerned with how this story ends than how it begins, but you have to admit it was a pretty sweet beginning.
Magnus Paajarvi came one diving poke-check away from a hat-trick, Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle combined on a goal-scorer’s goal, netminder Olivier Roy made saves worthy of a plays of the week package and the Edmonton Oilers prospects dumped Vancouver’s prospects 4-1.
The movie JAWS didn’t start out this good, and that had nudity and a shark attack.
“Kudos to them, they worked hard in the summer and they came here with a bit of a heavy burden to bear in terms of rising to the occasion,” said head coach Tom Renney, who got a first-rate game from his first rounders. “And I guess at least to a point they’ve done that.”
Paajarvi, who many think is the most NHL-ready of the trio, reinforced that belief early in a sold-out South Okanagan Events Centre, scoring on a rebound 4:58 into the first period, then again on a wrist shot in the second.
He had the third one on his blade in the final moments, but Vancouver’s Kevin Connauton robbed him with a valiant save.
“I’m a little disappointed with that, but he backchecked hard so I have to give him credit,” said Paajarvi, who showed great speed and balance in delivering a first-star effort in his first game as Oilers property. “It was a little relief, but I’m not going to take too much out of it. It was the first game and I think a lot of guys were rusty, but it felt all right.”
Besides he expects to score goals. And like Eskimos GM Hugh Campbell always used to say, when you get in the end zone, act like you’ve been there before.
“I have huge pressure on myself, for sure,” he said. “I’m not setting a goal that I have to make hat-tricks, I just want to play good hockey and to make a big impact on the team.”
Eberle, who continued his point-per game pace in the pros (23 points in 20 AHL games before this) with a second period snipe in the top shelf after a nice feed from Hall, rather enjoyed the view of Paajarvi from the bench.
“He played awesome,” said Eberle. “Obviously his speed is a huge factor in his game and he showed some grittiness, he scored one in front of the net on a rebound, it was good to see.”
Hall couldn’t have been more impressed with his new teammate, either.
“I have a feeling we’re going to be exchanging good games all throughout the camp,” he grinned. “It’s really good to see him playing well; it’s his first game on the small ice and I thought he really adapted well. A lot of guys played well tonight.”
Including Olivier. who stopped 28 of 29 shots, including sensational back-to-back saves (pad and glove) off Jordan Schroeder from point blank range. He topped those with a diving stick save, robbing Connauton of a sure goal later in the period.
“He was really strong,” said Renney. “I thought he had a real presence, the one that went off his shoulder, maybe he was back in his net just a touch, but very steady. As the game went on our players were very confident that pucks were going to get stopped and at the end of the day that’s all you ask from your goaltender.”