Canucks come out strong

BOB MACKIN -- 24 Hours Vancouver

, Last Updated: 9:13 AM ET

The West Coast Express line derailed Wayne Gretzky's coaching debut for the Phoenix Coyotes last night at General Motors Place.

Vancouver Canucks captain Markus Naslund scored twice in a 3-2 win before 18,630 fans at The Garage as the National Hockey League returned after the canceled 2004-2005 season.

Canucks' blue line produced the first goal of the season as Nolan Baumgartner connected with Mattias Ohlund at 2:19 of the second period.

Brendan Morrison and Todd Bertuzzi combined on a nifty passing play to feed Naslund on a breakaway at 7:59 for the 2-0 advantage.

Canuck goalie Dan Cloutier's shutout bid was foiled with 8:59 remaining when Coyote defenseman Keith Ballard scored on a pass from Mike Johnson.

Naslund responded just 19 seconds later with assists by Morrison and Sami Salo.

Coyote Oleg Saprykin cut Vancouver's lead to a goal with 44 seconds remaining on a power play.

Petr Nedved, who started his career with the Canucks in 1990, didn't finish the opening game of his 14th season. He suffered a strained groin.

Canuck legends Orland Kurtenbach, Stan Smyl and Kirk McLean performed the ceremonial face-off while Naslund offered a short welcome back to fans before veteran anthem singer Richard Loney sang.

The Canucks begin their first road trip of the season Saturday in Edmonton against the Oilers and return Oct. 16 to host the Dallas Stars.


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