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Canucks beat Tavares-less Isles to open exhibition season

The Canadian Press

9/15/2009 3:33:45 AM

TERRACE, B.C. -- Sergei Shirokov left his mark on Terrace, B.C.
  
The Vancouver forward scored his second goal of the game just past the midway point of the third period as the Canucks beat the New York Islanders 2-1 in the 2009 Kraft Hockeyville NHL exhibition game on Monday night.

The 2006 draft pick and former CSKA Moscow player cooly backhanded the winner past Islanders goalie Nathan Lawson to the delight of fans in this northwest B.C. town as the NHL kicked off its exhibition schedule.

The diminutive Russian made it 1-0 from almost the exact same spot in the first period.

Islanders goalie Scott Munroe, who got the start for New York, stopped Aaron Rome's point shot but the rebound went straight to an open Shirokov. He one-timed the puck into the open side on the power play.

Andrew Raycroft, signed by the Canucks and trying to make the team as starting goalie Roberto Luongo's backup, was solid when called upon.

Raycroft stopped a streaking Trevor Smith on a partial breakaway in the first, and in the second robbed Jeff Tambellini on a power play, moving from his right to left to snare a sure goal. He later denied Greg Mauldin point blank.

Raycroft said playing a pre-season game in place like Terrace provides a unique opportunity.

"Most exhibition games, especially in the big buildings, are half full. There's not a whole lot of excitement, but obviously that was not the case tonight," said Raycroft.

"We enjoy it, coming to see new parts of the country. It gets pretty monotonous after you play in the league four or five years -- same hotels, same room service, same everything."

The Islanders, who didn't dress No. 1 draft pick John Tavares because of the flu, evened the game before Raycroft gave way to AHL goalie of the year Cory Schneider midway through the second period.

Jon Sim neatly stepped around a Vancouver defender and went to his backhand to score high over Raycroft's right shoulder.

The second period was a rough one, as each team was assessed three fighting penalties.

Schneider, battling with Raycroft for a job in Vancouver, stopped every shot he faced in relief and was especially sharp in the third, twice stoning Blake Comeau on great chances.

Despite allowing a goal, Raycroft, the 2004 Calder Trophy winner with Boston, said he isn't putting pressure on himself in the battle to win the backup spot.

"(Schneider) had a great year but you're always fighting, trying to play your best. I've been working and grinding and battling hard for the last 10 to 13 years so (competition) is not much new. You just go out and battle hard."

The fans in Terrace, which beat out other cities and towns across Canada for the right to host the game, sounded a lot like the crowds who cheer on Vancouver at GM Place, chanting "Go Canucks Go" and starting the wave.

After the game's final whistle, both teams saluted the fans, sending 40 lucky people home with signed jerseys at centre ice.

Notes: Dave Scatchard, an ex-Canuck and Islander, played his first NHL exhibition game for Vancouver since taking a year away from hockey. ... Veteran defencemen Kevin Bieksa and Willie Mitchell didn't dress for the Canucks, despite both taking the trip.