For the Vancouver Canucks, there is nothing that soothes their ills like a game against the Calgary Flames.
They can play at Vancouver’s Rogers Arena or the Scotiabank Saddledome. It doesn’t matter. The Canucks usually win. Their record over the last 11 games against their Northwest Division rival is a sparkling 9-0-2. And if you saw Tuesday’s triumph, you know why.
Although the Canucks had struggled through the opening month of the this NHL season, posting a moderate 5-5-1 record, the first meeting with Calgary righted a lot of wrongs. Roberto Luonogo’s goaltending was steady. The power play clicked. The goals were timely, also frequent. All in all, it added up to a 5-1 win, Vancouver’s first of a six-game road trip.
This was supposed to be a benchmark game for the Flames, who were riding a two-game win streak and eager to gain an edge on their dominant foes. But instead of asserting themselves, the Flames fell behind and quickly, beaten by Vancouver’s speed and finishing touch.
Chris Higgins took a chip pass ahead of Calgary defenceman Scott Hannan and beat goalie Miikka Kiprusoff with a slick backhanded move. That was followed by the first of two Vancouver power play goals. Alex Burrows got one. Then in the closing seconds of the first period, with Calgary’s Roman Horak in the penalty box, Daniel Sedin wristed a shot by Kiprusoff to make it 3-0. (The goal was Sedin’s fifth of the year.)
In the second, Cody Hodgson and defenceman Alex Edler increased Vancouver’s lead to 5-0, at which point Calgary fans began jeering Kiprusoff whenever he made a save. Henrik Karlsson took over in goal for Calgary in the third period.
Alex Tanguay scored in the last minute for Calgary.
“We wanted to be strong at home, get close to .500 (record-wise). It’s disappointing,” said Flames’ captain Jarome Iginla. “Every part of the game, we were terrible tonight … They picked it up and we went the other way.”
What’s due for a drastic change is the production from the Flames’ top line of Iginla, Brendan Morrison and Tanguay. Iginla, who has traditionally started poorly virtually every season, has just two goals so far. Tanguay has two goals and seven assists while Morrison remains without a point through six games.
“We haven’t been very good,” acknowledged Morrison, who is coming off knee surgery at age 36. “We understand we have to produce here if we want to win games. I’ve been very cautious on the ice. I need to be a little more involved offensively.”
Without their first line scoring, the Flames have had troubles on the power play. That was evident against the Canucks, who were shorthanded for a four-minute stretch with Henrik Sedin penalized for high sticking. The Canucks allowed one shot on goal and Luongo easily turned it aside.
“We had a lot of guys not play well,” said Calgary head coach Brent Sutter. “I’m stuck for words. It was not a good hockey game for us. We allowed it to be an easy game.”
Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault liked how his team skated in the first period and had special praise for Edler and his three-point showing. “We said all along we think Alex is a premier defenceman in this league,” Vigneault noted. “His skill level is one of the best.”
The Canucks looked more like their former selves by winning a game with their quickness and depth, even with newcomer David Booth still finding his way on a line with Ryan Kesler. It was such a complete showing overall that even Luongo drew a few cheers from the Vancouver fans in attendance. His career record against Calgary is 21-10-3.
The Flames now embark on a three-game road trip in search of a team to cure their ills.