67,000 fans packed into BC Place in Vancouver to take in the New Year's Classic between the New Jersey Devils and the host Canucks.
BC Place is normally home to the BC Lions of the Canadian Football League (CFL) and the Vancouver Whitecaps FC of the Major League Soccer (MLS). It was also home to the 2014 NHL Heritage Classic between the Ottawa Senators and Vancouver Canucks.
The pre-game show kicked off with the Old Timers Game between the New Jersey Devils alumni and the Vancouver Canucks alumni. In All-Star Game fashion, the stadium announcer broadcast each player’s name, one by one, as they skated out onto the ice to legions of screaming fans.
In an interesting twist, current Canucks captain, Ryan Suter, dropped the puck for the ceremonial face-off between Henrik Sedin and Bobby Holik.
The first period started out a little slow, as both teams got their legs under them and both coaches, Jacques Lemaire for the Devils and Marc Crawford for the Canucks, opted to roll through the lines.
At the 9:02 mark of the first period, Jay Pandolfo for the Devils got called for hooking and the Canucks powerplay went to work. It took only 26 seconds on the powerplay for Daniel Sedin to open the scoring, taking a crisp slap-pass from brother Henrik Sedin at the point, beating Martin Brodeur clean on the glove side.
The Sedins look like they haven’t missed a beat since retiring in 2018.
The New Jersey Devils stormed back in the latter half of the first period, providing substantial pressure on Canuck goaltender Kirk McLean, but he closed the door. The Canucks took a 1-0 lead into the first intermission with the shots 12-10 in favor of the Devils.
The second period saw a change of goalies on both sides, with Dan Cloutier stepping in for the Canucks and Chris Terreri for the Devils. At the 4:32 mark of the first period, Scott Niedermayer did an end to end rush and beat Cloutier 5-hole to tie the game 1-1.
Shortly thereafter, Randy McKay’s dump in knuckle shot from center ice at 4:45 also beat Cloutier as it bounced just in front of the goaltender, giving the Devils the lead 2-1. A few minutes later, Petr Sykora was sprung on a breakaway after a perfect pass from Scott Gomez. Sykora faked the shot and blasted home a shot past a helpless Dan Cloutier, increasing the Devils lead to 3-1.
The second half of the second period saw the Canucks alumni push back as Trevor Linden, Markus Naslund and Stan Smyl had some good zone time, hemming the Devils in their own zone. At 14:17, Gino Odjick potted a juicy rebound off a Thomas Gradin shot behind goaltender Chris Terreri to close the lead to 3-2.
Seven seconds later, Pavel Bure took a Daniel Sedin pass for a clear-cut breakaway and deked out a helpless Chris Terreri, tying the game 3-3. Fans at BC Place erupted. With momentum clearly on their side, the Canucks kept their foot on the gas and kept the Devils trapped in their zone for the final 5 minutes of the second period.
The buzzer sounded, signaling the end of the second period and finally the Devils could breathe a sigh of relief. Shots in the second period were 17-5 in favor of the Canucks.
The third period saw the final change in goaltending, with Roberto Luongo guarding the net for the Canucks and Sean Burke for the Devils. An early high-sticking infraction from Dave Babych of the Canucks put the Devils on their first powerplay of the game at 4:56.
Scott Stevens ripped a slapshot at the net, but was blocked by Sami Salo, and Patrik Elias of the Devils picked up the loose puck and snapped it home to regain the lead for the Devils 4-3. Minutes later, Jyrki Lumme spotted Markus Naslund flying down the wing and lasered a pass tape-to-tape.
Naslund entered the Devils zone and cut around a flat-footed Ken Daneyko and snapped a shot top-shelf past goaltender Sean Burke, tying the game 4-4.
The last half of the 3rd period saw a lot of back and forth between the two teams but goaltenders Sean Burke and Roberto Luongo kept their teams in the game. With 3 minutes to go in the game, the Sedins had the Devils hemmed in their zone once again.
Jamie Langenbrunner put the grab on Daniel Sedin and the referee signaled a delayed penalty. Daniel fought through the check and passed it off to Henrik as Roberto Luongo raced to the bench for the extra attacker.
Geoff Courtnall jumped off the bench and headed into play as the Sedin’s continued to cycle the puck down low. Henrik spotted Courtnall headed to the slot, saucered a pass to Courtnall who teed up a slapshot, ringing it off the crossbar and into the net past Sean Burke.
BC Place erupted once again as the hometown Canucks now had a 5-4 lead late in the game.
The Devils pulled their goaltender on the next possession in the Canucks zone, but could not get another shot past goaltender Roberto Luongo. Time expired and the Canucks win 5-4! Shots in the 3rd period were 14-7 in favor of the Canucks. Teams shook hands at the end of the game as they awaited the 3 stars of the game.
The 3 Stars of the game were: 1st Star – Daniel Sedin (VAN) – 1 Goal, 2 Assists 2nd Star – Henrik Sedin (VAN) – 3 Assists 3rd Star – Geoff Courtnall (VAN) – Game Winning Goal
The New Jersey Devils were also responsible for the 1st Intermission entertainment of the main game which featured a special performance of Nickelback and Friends.
Nickelback took to the stage along with Slipknot and Imagine Dragons to play a song called Triality, a mashup of Duality by Slipknot, Photograph by Nickelback and Thunder by Imagine Dragons:
Next up was a Nickelback collaboration with Post Malone and 21 Savage called Rockstar, a mashup of Rockstar by Post Malone and Rockstar by Nickelback:
Third up was a Lana Del Rey and Nickelback collaboration called Ultraviolent Lullaby, a mashup of Ultraviolence by Lana Del Rey and Lullaby by Nickelback:
Finally, was a collaboration between Drake and Nickelback called Animals, a mashup of Hotline Bling by Drake and Animals by Nickelback:
The New Jersey Devils Organization would like to thank GM Aaron Sanderson, the Vancouver Canucks organization and the city of Vancouver for their hospitality and making the New Year's Classic a success.
The Devils would also like to thank Commissioners Thomas Gidlow and Dan Bacon for making the idea a reality.