VANCOUVER. B.C. – Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu made up for lost time Thursday night.
The two longtime friends and Finnish national teammates. who have long dreamed of playing on the same line in the NHL. combined for the winning overtime goal as the Anaheim Ducks edged the Vancouver Canucks 3-2 at General Motors Place.
“This is the first time we’ve played together on a daily basis.” said Selanne. who scored the winner 3:49 into the sudden-death session. “So far. so good.”
Koivu. the former Montreal captain who signed as a free agent with Anaheim in the summer after the Canadiens decided to let him go. recorded two assists. He set up Corey Perry’s regulation goal in addition to Selanne’s winner.
Ryan Whitney scored the other Anaheim goal as the Ducks improved to 4-2-0 and handed the Canucks (6-0-1) their first loss in seven exhibition outings.
Matt Pope and Shane O’Brien replied for Vancouver. O’Brien. who did not have a single regular season goal in 2008-09. scored with only 53.6 seconds left in regulation – only to have the comeback attempt thwarted by Koivu and Selanne.
“It’s getting there.” said Selanne about his chemistry with Koivu. “I know we can be way better. and obviously we will be better.”
After taking a pass from Koivu. Selanne beat Vancouver goaltender Andrew Raycroft with a wrist shot over high right shoulder from a sharp angle. But he said it will still take time for him and Koivu to jell.
“I think every day there’s been improvement.” said Selanne. “That’s what it takes. Nothing is going to happen automatically. I don’t care who you are. If you look at all the great players. who have played together. there’s not two guys that can just turn it on like that and everything works good.”
Added Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle: “They’ve taken on that responsibility that if they are going to play together they are going to have to play to a higher level than what they’ve played in training camp.”
So far. Selanne said. Koivu is happy to have less responsibility than he did in hockey-mad Montreal. He predicts the former Canadiens skipper. who now has a goal and three assists in four exhibition games. will be able to relax more as he gets used to the West Coast lifestyle in a non-traditional NHL market.
“For sure. he doesn’t have to deal with all the pressure that comes from the media and the fans.” Selanne said. “Obviously. I don’t think he’s going to trade that experience of being a captain there. But. saying that. I think you’re going to see a lot more happier face and more relief that you can just focus on hockey and the normal things.”
While Selanne and Koivu were hinting at what they might do together for Finland during the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics. longtime Ducks linemates Perry and Ryan Getzlaf offered a glimmer of what they could do for Canada. Getzlaf played his first game after undergoing hernia surgery July 29 that forced him to miss the Canadian Olympic team’s summer evaluation camp. which Perry attended.
“It felt pretty good.” said Getzlaf. “I’m not that sore right now.”
Getzlaf said he’s not thinking about Olympic possibilities. His focus is on getting ready for the regular season. But being able to play alongside Perry has helped his recovery.
“Obviously. me and Pears have played together since day one. so it’s kind of come natural to me (to play alongside him) and it makes it a lot easier coming back from situations like this.”
The Canucks made things difficult for themselves during a scoreless first 40 minutes in which they were outshot 15-6. Vancouver managed only 11 shots after 40 minutes but outshot Anaheim 12-4 in the third and 2-1 in overtime.
“We played pretty well for the most part.” said Getzlaf. “We had our moments in the third and we got caught flat-footed a little bit. which is pretty normal for a team at the start of the year learning about each other and that kind of stuff.”
Notes: Canucks prospect Michael Grabner. a 2006 first-round draft pick who has come under criticism for his lack of production after scoring 30 goals for Manitoba of the AHL last season. earned his first point of the pre-season. He assisted on Pope’s goal . . . Vancouver released veteran winger Dave Scatchard. 33. He had been on a tryout contract after missing more than a season because of concussion problems suffered while playing for the Phoenix Coyotes . . . Ronald Petrovicky. 32. trying to return to the NHL after three seasons in Europe. was also cut as the Canucks reduced their pre-season roster to 38 . . . The Canucks sent defencemen Evan Oberg. Taylor Ellington and Travis Ramsey to Manitoba of the AHL. along with wingers Pierre-Cedric Labrie and Eric Walsky and goaltender Daren Machesney.