Roberto Luongo struggles in first pre-season game as Canucks fall 4-1 to Oilers

VANCOUVER – Jordan Eberle is making an early case for his inclusion on Canada’s 2014 Olympic team.

Eberle scored a goal and added two assists as the Edmonton Oilers downed the Vancouver Canucks 4-1 on Wednesday in NHL pre-season action. He produced his points in the first 7:38 of the game with all of the scoring completed in the opening period.

“It just seemed like the puck was going in,” said Eberle. “The biggest thing in pre-season is, you want to get some confidence and help yourself get to the regular season—and that happened tonight.”

Eberle, a 23-year-old Regina native, is a candidate for the Canadian squad that will compete in Sochi, Russia in February. He now has a goal and three assists in two exhibition appearances.

He attended Team Canada’s orientation sessions in the summer but none of the Olympic hopefuls skated because of potentially high insurance costs.

“The Olympic team is, obviously a goal,” said Eberle. “But with no tryouts, the only thing you can do is play as well as you can in the season. I’m looking forward to (the rest of) this training camp, obviously, and getting some confidence and moving forward to the season.

“The most I can do is fight my way onto that team and give myself the best option. That’s playing here and doing well. In exchange, it’s going to give us get to the level we want to be at. I’ll just worry about this team first.”

Around this time last year, Eberle had many worries because of the NHL lockout. He is glad to have more certainty this year after starting last season with other young Oilers, including Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, with their Oklahoma City farm club.

“It’s obviously a little more familiar than last year,” said Eberle. “Last year, you didn’t know where you were going to be and you didn’t know what was happening. This year, it’s nice to have a set date in the way you’re starting, and you can prepare yourself a little easier.”

Martin Marincin, David Perron and Jesse Joensuu also scored for the Oilers, who are now 2-1-1 in the pre-season. But, like the host Canucks, Edmonton showed little in the final two periods of a game that contained little, if any, emotion or excitement.

“It would have been nice to lay it in a little bit, stick it to them,” said Eberle. “But at the end of the day, we got the win and that’s all that matters.”

He stood out as Edmonton was playing the second of back-to-back games. Oilers goaltender Devan Dubnyk called Eberle’s effort “par for the course.”

Dubnyk also delivered a steady performance as he stopped 25 of 26 shots while playing the whole game.

“I thought we came out flying and were doing all the right things and just beating (Vancouver) to pucks,” said Dubnyk.

The Oilers scored four goals in the first 12:24 on Canucks No. 1 goaltender Roberto Luongo, who struggled in his first exhibition appearance of the year.

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“Obviously, Luongo didn’t have too much help back there,” said Dubnyk. “I don’t care who was in net. I don’t think it would be much different of an outcome with how hard we were going.”

Brendan Gaunce, with his second goal in two pre-season games, scored for Vancouver. The Canucks went with several core players among the 10 NHL veterans they dressed, including Daniel and Henrik Sedin and defenceman Kevin Bieksa.

Edmonton’s lineup contained 12 NHL regulars, with Taylor Hall, Nick Schultz and Ryan Smyth among them.

Eberle opened the scoring 4:49 into the game as he slid a wraparound in off of Luongo. Then he made the first passes as Marincini and Perron scored on similar long shots 31 seconds apart to put the Oilers up 3-0 before the game was eight minutes old.

The Canucks remained winless in two games under new coach John Tortorella, who watched again from Vancouver’s management box. Fielding questions for his boss after the game, assistant coach Glen Gulutzan suggested the Canucks will be better once they have played more games and get more into the systems that Tortorella will begin implementing in coming days.

Luongo finished with 14 saves on 18 shots in two periods of work. He was replaced by Joacim Eriksson, who is vying for Vancouver’s backup job with fellow Swede Eddie Lack.

Eriksson was credited with nine saves, but was rarely tested with Eberle having already helped the Oilers inflict all of the scoring damage necessary.

“(Eberle) quietly went about his business,” said Edmonton head coach Dallas Eakins. “He ended up with three points and he played a solid game. When his opportunities were to put (the puck) in the net or on somebody’s stick, he executed.”

Eberle logged a modest 15:54 of ice time, which was below many other players. He played just under six minutes in the first period and less than five in the second and third.

“I didn’t play him a whole tonne,” said Eakins. “I was trying to look at some other guys—but he certainly produced.”

Notes: The Canucks lost defencemen John Negrin and Patrick Mullen to injuries in the first period. Negrin was hurt when he crashed into the boards. He was favouring a leg as he skated to the bench with difficulty. … Nail Yakupov was one of two Oilers scratched. … Ty Rimmer dressed as the Oilers backup goaltender. The 21-year-old Edmonton native was never drafted and is seeking a contract after completing his junior eligibility with Lethbridge of the WHL last season. He showed enough at a prospects tournament in Penticton, B.C. to get a tour of duty in the pre-season. … Vancouver top 2013 draft picks Bo Horvat (13th overall) and Hunter Shinkaruk (24th overall) dressed for their second consecutive game along with top 2012 pick Gaunce and 2011 first-round choice Nicklas Jensen. All other Canucks suited up for their first pre-season action.