Defenceman Yannick Weber scored the go-ahead goal early in the third period as the Vancouver Canucks breathed a sigh of relief with a 2-1 win over the Calgary Flames on the Saturday night.
Darren Archibald also scored for the struggling Canucks, who snapped a four game slide and came into Saturday as losers of 11 of their last 12 games, including Thursday’s dispiriting 6-1 drubbing in Texas that defenceman Kevin Bieksa called “rock bottom” for the team.
Brian McGrattan had the only goal for Calgary, which had won its last two and three of its last five games.
It was the first meeting between the teams since a fierce line brawl broke out two seconds into a game on Jan. 18 that saw 150 penalty minutes assessed. Vancouver coach John Tortorella had a meltdown that night and went after Flames head coach Bob Hartley by storming Calgary’s locker-room during intermission.
Tortorella, furious at Hartley for icing his fourth line to start the game, served a 15-game suspension and the struggling Canucks have been in free fall ever since.
Despite Hartley starting tough guy McGrattan again on Saturday night, the teams played nice until six minutes into the game when Vancouver’s Bieksa got the better of Calgary’s Mark Giordano with a mean right hand after the two dropped gloves.
The Canucks had their chances early, including a 2-on-1 against Flames goalie Joni Ortio, but David Booth fired the puck wide to keep his goal drought in tact. Booth hasn’t scored since Dec. 17.
The absence of Canucks stalwart goalie Roberto Luongo — traded on Tuesday to Florida — was sharply felt at 2:13 of the second when a harmless looking slap shot by McGrattan near centre ice somehow eluded new No. 1 Eddie Lack. The crowd groaned and Tortorella shook his head in disbelief.
The Canucks evened the game three minutes later with a goal almost as ugly. With three Canucks crowding Ortio in the crease, Archibald wacked in the puck for his first career NHL goal. It breathed some life into the Rogers Arena, which didn’t have much to cheer with only eight Vancouver shots compared to the Flames’ 14 through two periods.
Action picked up in the third as Canuck Ryan Kesler was stopped by Ortio on a point-blank shot in the slot, while at the other end, Lance Bouma missed on a wide-open net with Lack way out of position.
Weber scored the go-ahead goal five minutes into the third when he banged home a rebound off a shot from new teammate Shawn Matthias, who came to Vancouver from the Panthers in the Luongo trade.
Calgary had a chance to tie the game with two power-play chances thanks to Vancouver’s Chris Higgins in the final five minutes, but the Flames couldn’t capitalize.
Despite Vancouver’s recent hard times, the team is still only four points out of a playoff spot after Dallas’s 4-3 against Minnesota on Saturday. Calgary (25-32-7) remains second last in the Pacific Division.
Lack finished with 22 saves, while Ortio stopped 12 at the other end for Calgary. The Canucks (29-27-10) eclipsed their season-low of 20 shots.
Notes: Saturday night marked the 10-year anniversary of former-Canuck Todd Bertuzzi’s on-ice attack on Steve Moore. The former Avalanche forward, who never played again in the NHL, filed a $38-million dollar lawsuit against Bertuzzi and the Canucks. A trial date has been set for Sept. 8. ... Canucks forward Zack Kassian served the first game of his three-game suspension after boarding Stars defenceman Brenden Dillon on Thursday. ... Attendance was 18,910.