Granlund, Markstrom lead the way as Canucks down Oilers in pre-season finale
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VANCOUVER — The Vancouver Canucks know things are going to get a lot more difficult when the games start to matter.
And they weren't all that easy to begin with on Saturday night.
Markus Granlund had a goal and an assist, and Jacob Markstrom made 25 saves as the Canucks defeated the Edmonton Oilers 3-2 in the pre-season finale for both clubs.
The high-flying Oilers open their 2017-18 schedule Wednesday at home against the Calgary Flames, but the Canucks don't get started until next Saturday in a rematch with Edmonton at Rogers Arena.
Vancouver beat a roster that included most of the Oilers' NHLers after doing the same in Thursday's 3-1 victory over the Flames, but Canucks rookie head coach Travis Green said the real test for a club looking to rebuild after finishing 29th last season begins next weekend.
"I'm not sitting up here saying we just outplayed a team really bad and won," he said. "We found a way to win a hockey game. Our goalie played well.
"They've got a really good team that's going to get better when the regular season starts. You can count on it."
Jake Virtanen and Loui Eriksson had the other goals for Vancouver.
Leon Draisaitl scored twice for Edmonton, while Connor McDavid had two assists. Cam Talbot stopped 14 shots in taking the loss.
The Oilers finished 1 for 8 on the power play, and surrendered the winning goal on a Canucks man advantage that wound up 1 for 4.
"Definitely need to sharpen up the power play and the penalty kill and get a little bit stronger in the (defensive) zone," said McDavid. "But offensively I thought we had our chances, just have to bear down."
While both teams iced veteran lineups, Vancouver was minus two-thirds of its second line with Bo Horvat (upper body) and Sven Baertschi (illness).
After the Canucks hit the post on a power play early in the second period, the Oilers struck on a two-man advantage at 7:48, with Draisaitl snapping a shot past Markstrom for his second of night to make it 2-1 off a feed from McDavid.
But Vancouver would get that one back 21 seconds later while still down a man when Granlund stripped Edmonton defenceman Matt Benning at the offensive blue line and beat Talbot on a breakaway.
The Canucks then made it 3-2 at 12:41 in the dying seconds of a power play of their own when Eriksson gloved the puck down to his stick at the side of the net before quickly sliding a shot past Talbot.
Eriksson had a miserable first season in Vancouver after signing a six-year, US$36-million last summer, but is confident he will rebound like he did after a difficult inaugural campaign with the Boston Bruins following a trade from the Dallas Stars in 2013.
"It was a tough year," said Eriksson, who had 11 goals and 13 assists in 2016-17. "I just want to move forward."
Edmonton had a 3-on-1 rush eight minutes into the third right after killing a penalty, but McDavid fanned on his shot with Markstrom down and out before the Vancouver netminder recovered to rob Patrick Maroon on the visitors' best chance to get an equalizer.
"Just a desperation save," said Markstrom, the presumptive starter heading into the season. "It's a good feeling when it hits you and you're there."
Vancouver jumped ahead 1-0 at 12:53 of the first when Virtanen, who is looking to secure an NHL job after getting sent to the AHL to get in shape and find his game last season, scored his fourth goal of the exhibition schedule.
Alexander Burmistrov was fastest to a puck behind the net and fed a quick pass in front to Virtanen, and the sixth pick at the 2014 draft beat Talbot between the legs.
"I'm confident, but you never know," Virtanen said of his chances of sticking around. "I gave it all I've got."
It looked like the Canucks would get out of the first up 1-0, but the Oilers showed their speed and transition game in the waning moments of the period.
Draisaitl carried the puck over the Vancouver blue-line and dished off to McDavid before taking the return feed at the right face-off dot and blasting a one-timer past Markstrom for with 1.4 seconds left on the clock.
"That's a real good hockey team," said Green. "They've got a lot of speed, a lot of skill. I didn't think we were great early in game.
"We got better in the second period, and we hung in there in the third."
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