VANCOUVER - There may have been free team scarves and beers for those in attendance, but the Vancouver Canucks still sent fans home disappointed in the much-anticipated season opener Saturday at Rogers Arena. Not that the game lacked any drama, however.
With one of Vancouver's biggest storylines heading into the new NHL campaign being their crowded crease ó and the many trade rumours revolving around Roberto Luongo ó the entire saga took another interesting turn in the Canucks' 7-3 loss to the Anaheim Ducks.
As expected, Vancouver started opening night with Cory Schneider ó the 26-year-old who earned both a hefty pay raise in the off-season and the supposed No. 1 job -- but ended it with Luongo.
Schneider allowed five goals on 14 shots, including three against on four shots in the second period, before being pulled in favour of the man many had speculated would soon be on his way out of town. For his part, Luongo didn't fare too well either, giving up two goals on 12 shots.
ďIt was unacceptable to play that way and to put my team in that situation and not even give them a chance to win," Schneider said after the game. "Iím not going to think too long about this one and get ready for my next opportunity. You never expect to have it go this way, but felt just a half-second off and at this level thatís all it takes.
"Iíll put my head down, work my butt off and fix any mistakes I made."
Luongo received a rather positive response when he stepped onto the ice with more than 13 minutes to go in the second period.
"It was, I don't even know how to describe it ó it's part of the game, it was a fun moment," he said of the reception. "I wasn't really expected to go in.
"Obviously I was trying to be as ready as I could be."
Coach Alain Vigneault would not disclose who will get the start Sunday night when the Canucks host the Edmonton Oilers, instead wanting to wait to tell his goaltenders first.
"It didn't go the way we had planned it and drawn it up," Vigneault said. "You're going to get nights like that."
The Canucks have not won a season opener since 2008-09 and allowed the most goals in a home opener in franchise history.
However, the blame doesn't fall on Schneider, or goaltending for that matter, argued his teammates.
"Everybody can look at themselves and say, 'That was the first game and there was a lot of improvements to be had,'" said Kevin Bieksa, who finished a minus-1 and was on the ice for five goals against. "This is not a team that points fingers and blames one player. We lost this as a team and we'll move forward."
Veteran Teemu Selanne led the way for the Ducks, scoring twice and adding two helpers to put him in the league's scoring lead after Day 1 ó in a tie with none-other-than the Dallas Stars' Jaromir Jagr.
"That's a surprise, that's a surprise," the 42-year-old said with a laugh when asked about the flashback to the mid-90s. "I'm happy for Jagr. I'm very proud of him and he can be able to play in this age too because it's not easy."
After Daniel Winnik put the visitors in front 6:31 into the first period with a nice deflection on a Saku Koivu shot, the Canucks responded with two of their own.
Less than 3:30 after the Ducks goal, Dan Hamhuis scored the first tally of the night for the hosts, firing a slapshot past a screened Jonas Hiller. Soon after, with Vancouver on the power play, Daniel Sedin capitalized on the hard work by Jannik Hansen in front, digging out the rebound and potting his first of the season. Sheldon Souray's slapshot from the point on the power play evened things up again.
Tied 2-2, the Ducks came out firing in the second period, scoring three goals in a span of 3:04 to end Schneider's night. Winnik had his second of the game before Corey Perry and Kyle Palmieri completed the quick-goals succession.
Selanne added another Ducks marker with 13.3 seconds remaining in the middle frame to give the visitors a commanding lead. The winger then scored his second of the night in the third period, soon after defenceman Alex Edler had answered for the Canucks.
Vancouver finished two-for-four on the power play while the Ducks were a perfect three-for-three. Meanwhile, Hiller made 26 saves in the win.
"It's obviously not the way you want to start off the year," Luongo added. "Obviously it's disappointing for everybody. The best thing we can do right now is learn and get better."