Vancouver Canucks forward Sam Gagner (89) takes shot on net as Arizona Coyotes goaltender Darcy Kuemper (35) makes the save during first period pre-season NHL action in Kelowna on Saturday, Sept. 29, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff Bassett

Canucks fall 4-1 to Coyotes to close out NHL pre-season

Vancouver opens regular season Wednesday against Calgary

KELOWNA — The Vancouver Canucks scoring woes continued as they closed out their pre-season 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.

Derek Stepan and Michael Grabner both had a goal and an assist for the Coyotes (4-2-0), 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.

That ended a 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.

Vancouver closes out its pre-season with just 10 goals scored during seven games.

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.

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.

RELATED: Maple Leafs are Canada’s best bet to end Stanley Cup drought

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 pre-season. 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.

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.

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

Carol Schram, The Canadian Press

 

Vancouver Canucks’ Nikolay Goldobin (77) tries to get around Arizona Coyotes’ Jordan Oesterle (82) during first period pre-season NHL action in Kelowna on Saturday Sept. 29, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff Bassett

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