PIC OF THE GAME
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VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) - The Vancouver Canucks could have used a better start and a more solid middle.
Instead they settled on a strong finish, and that was enough to hand the Calgary Flames their first regulation loss this month.
Henrik Sedin scored the go-ahead goal late in the second period and Taylor Pyatt added an insurance goal 6:59 into the third, leading Vancouver to a 5-3 win over the Flames on Thursday night.
"We definitely had more [energy] than last game, no doubt about that,” said Canucks captain Markus Naslund, who set up power-play goals by Henrik Sedin and Sami Salo to reach 800 NHL points. “I don’t think we started out that great, but it was good for us to find a way to win against a hot team like Calgary.,"
Craig Conroy and Matthew Lombardi scored 1:54 apart to tie the game in the second period for the Flames. But with defenseman Robyn Regehr off for elbowing, Henrik Sedin completed a pretty passing play from twin brother Daniel and Naslund by one-touching the puck through Miikka Kiprusoff's legs from the top of the crease.
Pyatt made it 5-3 by jamming in a rebound after rookie Mason Raymond, who also scored the first goal, was stopped on a breakaway. That was it for Kiprusoff, who was replaced by Curtis McElhinney after giving up five goals on 20 shots.
"No, the defensive play wasn't spectacular but some nights your goalie has to participate in those situations and we didn't get it from, either," Flames coach Mike Keenan said. "I don't think Miikka would be very happy letting in five goals on 17 shots, so a change was necessary. It's pretty easy to state what happened. We had 32 shots on net and they had 20, and we lost the hockey game."
But sometimes a little offensive support also does the trick.
“Tonight I thought Mason, Pyatt, and Jaffray played a solid game for us,” said Alain Vigneault. “We were able to shut down their line and the Twins with Markus did a good job. We don’t score five goals very often and we don’t give up three very often. Their three goals were all tipped, so there wasn’t very much Louie could do on that. I don’t know if we had an offensive outburst or their goaltender had a tough time, I couldn’t tell which is which.”
also scored as Vancouver improved to 9-0-2 in their last 11 at home and gave the Flames their first loss in seven on the road. Roberto Luongo
made 29 saves for the Canucks, who have won all four games against Calgary this season, moving five points ahead of them atop the Northwest Division.
"It was a sloppy game, there was a lot of turnovers on both sides and fortunately we were able to get some goals," Luongo said.
Scored a goal and set up Henrik Sedin on the game winner.
Opened the scoring for the Canucks with his third of the year and added an assist on Pyatt's goal.
Scored the Canucks fifth goal, securing the 5-3 win and assisted on tonight's first goal.
Jarome Iginla had the other goal for the Flames, who lost for the first time in regulation in December, falling to 7-1-4. Calgary swept a six-game road trip - becoming just the third NHL team to do so - before losing their last two games at home in overtime. The Flames were looking to tie a franchise record with their seventh straight road win, and it looked good early.
Iginla opened the scoring on the power play six minutes in, ending his only two-game pointless skid this season. But the Canucks scored three before the period ended, starting with Raymond banging in his own rebound midway through.
"Guys like myself and some others got to come in and do that in order for us to win, said Raymond, who has three goals and seven points in eight games since being recalled from the AHL.
The Flames failed to capitalize on a four-minute power play shortly after that, and Sedin gave the Canucks the lead with 3:19 left in the period, spinning around Cory Sarich to the outside before trickling a 15-foot backhand through Kiprusoff's legs.
"My first thing, I said, 'What a goal, that's going to be a highlight goal,"' Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said. "Then I saw the replay and I said, 'Boy, that's a bad goal."'
Salo made it 3-1 with 39 seconds left when he blasted a power-play slap shot past Kiprusoff's glove for his first of the season.
"We started using Sami's shot, that's the key for our power play to open up all the other down-low plays," Naslund said after the Canucks, who had four power-play goals in nine games, converted two of their first three chances.
“We’ve been talking about Sami getting more shots to the net, getting his shots through and not passing up on occasion,” said Vigneault. “Obviously, tonight we’re all hoping, because we know his intentions are really good, that this is a foot in the right direction as far as getting more offense out of a player that we need his offensive input.”
Conroy and Lombardi, on a power play, tied it on deflections, and Calgary limited the Canucks to two shots through the first 17 minutes of the second period. But Henrik Sedin
scored on the third, and Raymond got behind the Flames defense for a second time to set up Pyatt's goal.
"It wasn't our best game, it wasn't my best game, either. If you let five goals in you haven't done your job," Kiprusoff said. "I'm not happy with that. I'd like to play better, but I can't do anything about it now."
Calgary appeared to close the gap three minutes later, when Sarich's point shot was knocked out of the air and past Luongo, but the goal was waved off because it appeared Mark Smith tipped it with a high stick.
Notes: Vancouver D Mattias Ohlund missed a second game with neck spasms. Checking C Ryan Kesler
also sat out because he was still feeling lightheaded after taking a big hit in Colorado on Sunday. ... Calgary RW Owen Nolan returned after missing two games with a stinger. ... Last season, the Canucks emerged from the Christmas break last in the Northwest before using back-to-back wins over Calgary to jump-start a 32-8-6 run to the division title. ... Vancouver is 10-2-3 within the division this season. Calgary is 6-6-3.