Ryan Miller's home debut with the Vancouver Canucks didn't quite go according to plan, but he came up big when it counted most.
The veteran netminder shook off a couple suspect goals, making big saves in the third period and overtime before stopping all three attempts in the shootout Saturday as the Canucks downed the Edmonton Oilers 5-4.
Signed to a free-agent deal in the off-season to provide a calm influence in the Vancouver crease after years of goaltending controversy, Miller battled to keep his team in the game after going down 4-2 midway through the second period.
"It's a nice way to finish. The boys worked real hard and bailed me out," said Miller. "It's going to take all different ways this year so it's good to see they all stuck together and weren't phased by a couple tough goals.
"It wasn't how I envisioned it going, but I'm happy to get a win and to contribute."
Chris Higgins beat Viktor Fasth with a quick shot in the third round of the shootout before Miller stopped Benoit Pouliot on Edmonton's final chance to send the fans at Rogers Arena home happy.
"That was the loudest I've heard the crowd in quite some time," said Higgins. "It was a fun game to play in. They were rocking tonight and we fed off it in the second and third especially."
Miller was disappointed by goals in the second period from Nail Yakupov and Jesse Joensuu, but was grateful his teammates gave him a chance to redeem himself.
"You end up tied late in a game, it doesn't matter how you get there," said Miller, who finished with 25 saves. "You've got to contribute and I thought the boys were skating well all night. I had to hang in there and make the adjustments and just not let the first and second period linger too long in my head."
Henrik Sedin and Radim Vrbata each had a goal and an assist in regulation for Vancouver (2-0-0), while Nick Bonino and Linden Vey picked up their first goals as members of the Canucks.
Daniel Sedin added three assists for Vancouver, which registered a 4-2 victory in Calgary on Wednesday to open its schedule.
Mark Arcobello had a goal and an assist for Edmonton (0-1-1), while Brad Hunt also scored. Fasth made 37 saves through 65 minutes, and Teddy Purcell and David Perron each picked up two assists.
The Canucks trailed 4-3 after two periods, but tied the game on the power play at 7:06 when Vey beat Fasth through the five-hole for his first NHL goal.
Miller made a big save off Edmonton forward Taylor Hall with about nine minutes to go in regulation to keep things tied and was called upon again during a late Oilers' power play.
"He made a couple stops real late and the shootout, for sure was awesome," said Canucks head coach Willie Desjardins, who also made his home debut. "He's a good goaltender. That's what we expect from him. There might be some jitters opening day, but he was real good when we needed him."
The teams traded chances in an exciting overtime, with the Canucks outshooting the Oilers 41-29 overall after Edmonton held a 10-5 edge after 20 minutes.
"I really liked Viktor's game," said Oilers head coach Dallas Eakins. "There was a couple crazy ones that bounced on the way, but he was really solid and kept us in it, especially in overtime."
Up 2-1 after the first, Yakupov stretched Edmonton's lead at 2:22 of the second off the rush, beating Miller through the pads.
The Canucks got that one back 2:04 later when Bonino, who was acquired in the Ryan Kesler trade from the Anaheim Ducks this summer, tipped home his first with his new team off a point shot from defenceman Dan Hamhuis. The Oilers complained that a hand pass from Vancouver's Alexandre Burrows helped set up the goal, and television replays suggested they had a case. Burrows was eventually credited with an assist on the play.
Hall was then assessed a four-minute penalty for high sticking, but it was Edmonton that initially capitalized when Joensuu moved in on a short-handed breakaway and beat Miller with a backhand at 8:36.
Vancouver responded on the same power play when Daniel Sedin took a feed at the side of the net and found Vrbata, who rifled his second in as many games with his new team since signing as a free agent in July.
The Oilers opened the scoring on their first shot of the night when Hunt — a native of nearby Maple Ridge, B.C., playing in just his fifth career game — ripped a one-timer off the crossbar and in on the power play for his first NHL goal at 5:41 of the first.
Edmonton doubled its lead at 10:31 off a 3-on-2 break when Purcell fed Arcobello with a back-door pass through Miller's crease that the Oilers' forward just had to tap into a yawning cage.
"It's tough to lose a game like that, especially when we were up a couple goals against a division team, but we can't get too down on ourselves," said Oilers forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who had a third-period fight with Hamhuis. "We can take a lot of positives out of it."
The Canucks talked a lot about puck possession in training camp under Desjardins, but were held without a shot for more than 10 minutes before cutting Edmonton's lead in half late in the period when Henrik Sedin tipped home Daniel Sedin's effort with just 9.9 seconds left on the clock.
"We didn't play the way we wanted to in the first period," said Higgins. "I thought we were a little sluggish, a little behind the play. Second and third we upped our competition level and that was key for the rest of the game."
Notes: Daniel Sedin's assist in the first period was the 500th of his career. ... In a scheduling quirk, the Canucks don't play again until Friday when they meet the Oilers in Edmonton. ... The Oilers' next game is Tuesday on the road against the Los Angeles Kings before they pay a visit to the Arizona Coyotes on Wednesday.
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