Skip to main content
Open this photo in gallery:

Arizona Coyotes defencemen Alex Goligoski clears the puck from Vancouver Canucks' Bo Horvat during the first period of a preseason game, in Kelowna, B.C., on Sept. 29, 2018.Jeff Bassett/The Canadian Press

Goals were hard to come by for the Vancouver Canucks during the preseason, but Bo Horvat is glad the team’s scoring woes are happening now, rather than later.

The Canucks closed out exhibition play with a 4-1 defeat at the hands of the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday night.

Nikolay Goldobin was the lone Canuck to score in front of a sold-out crowd at Prospera Place in Kelowna, B.C, leaving the club with just 10 goals scored across seven preseason games.

But Vancouver had their chances, hitting the post three times in the opening frame, which gave Horvat hope.

“We score on those, it’s a totally different hockey game,” said Horvat, who had two goals and three assists in five preseason games.

“Look at the positives – we’re getting our chances.

“I’m glad we’re going through this now instead of the regular season, that’s for sure.”

Derek Stepan and Michael Grabner both had a goal and an assist for the Coyotes (4-2-1), while Christian Fischer and Brad Richardson also found the back of the net.

Jacob Markstrom made 12 saves for Vancouver (1-6-0) and Darcy Kuemper had 15 stops for Arizona.

The Canucks were 0 for 2 on the power play, while the Coyotes were 1 for 5 with the man advantage.

Coming off a 6-0 shutout in Edmonton against the Oilers on Wednesday, the Canucks didn’t get on the scoresheet until Goldobin converted on a pass to the slot from Brock Boeser to beat Kuemper with 9:11 to play in the third period.

“(Goldobin) showed some things that he can do offensively with the puck,” said coach Travis Green.

“He’s a young player that’s still learning the NHL game, the strength of the game. When he runs into problems is when he maybe loses a puck battle in his own zone or doesn’t get a puck out, but he also brings something else to the table that we lack.”

Goldobin’s goal ended a team scoring drought of 149 minutes and 47 seconds, stretching back to when Sam Gagner scored Vancouver’s only goal in its 4-1 loss to the Los Angeles Kings in Salt Lake City at 1:02 of the second period on Monday night.

The Coyotes opened the scoring on Saturday 4:19 into the first period, when Stepan and Fischer combined to strip the puck from Troy Stecher, turning an offensive rush for Vancouver into a tic-tac-toe passing play by the Coyotes that was finished off by Fischer.

Three minutes later, the Canucks moved the puck well on a long 5-on-3 power play, but couldn’t beat Kuemper. All told, Vancouver players hit the post three times in the opening frame.

With 3:11 left in the first and Vancouver’s Alex Edler in the penalty box, Stepan doubled the Coyotes’ lead with a sharp wrist shot from the top of the right faceoff circle that beat Markstrom high glove side.

Edler joined Brendan Leipsic in the penalty box for his second minor of the game with one second left in the first period.

The Canucks calmly killed off the long 5-on-3 that started the second, but continued to struggle to generate scoring chances. Shots were 15-15 after 40 minutes, but the Coyotes extended their lead to 3-0 with 8:35 to play in the second when Richardson tipped a point shot by Niklas Hjalmarsson past Markstrom.

In the Canucks first-ever visit to Kelowna since what is now Prospera Place opened in 1999, Goldobin breathed life into the sold-out crowd with his second goal of preseason. Boeser’s assist on the marker was his second of the exhibition campaign and rookie Elias Pettersson was awarded the second assist, giving him a team-leading six points in six games.

“I’m feeling confident,” said Pettersson, who is starting his first season in North America after an MVP campaign with the Vaxjo Lakers of the Swedish Hockey League in 2017-18.

“I do feel like I can do better, because some shifts I feel like I come away from my game. I want to be successful every shift that I have.”

Green called the 19-year-old one of the team’s “better players” in the preseason.

“He’s good offensively, you can see that, but his commitment to playing in his own zone, to backchecking, to not taking a chance just to make a play is impressive for a young man. He’s been good so far.”

Grabner closed out the scoring for Arizona with an empty-net goal with 38 seconds left in the third period.

With his defence and goaltending set, Vancouver coach Travis Green hoped to use the game to help him make some final decisions on opening-night roster spots for his forwards, where two more players will likely need to be cut before Wednesday’s season opener against the Calgary Flames at Rogers Arena.

“We’ve got decisions on who to keep and we’ll tinker around with lines once we do that,” said Green.

Opening-night rosters must be submitted to the NHL by Tuesday.

Interact with The Globe