Jacob Markstrom overcame the oddness of playing against his former Vancouver Canucks teammates with a 32-save shutout for the Calgary Flames in a 3-0 win Saturday.
Sean Monahan, Dillon Dube and Matthew Tkachuk scored power-play goals in Calgary’s home opener, which was the first NHL game at Scotiabank Saddledome since March 8, 2020 for a span of 10 months and eight days.
Canada’s NHL clubs are playing in empty arenas to avoid the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
“Unfortunately there’s no fans in the stands, but hopefully there’s a lot of people watching and enjoyed the win,” Markstrom said. “It’s special playing my old team too.”
Vancouver goaltender Braden Holtby stopped 32 of 35 shots in the loss.
Flames off-season acquisitions Markstrom, defenceman Chris Tanev and forward Josh Leivo faced their former club in the first of 10 meetings this season.
Markstrom played a combined 243 regular-season and playoff games for the Canucks, while Tanev spent 10 seasons and Leivo his last two in Vancouver.
“It’s weirder than I thought it was going to be,” Markstrom said. “It’s weird seeing the team you played for a long time on the other side, but I just tried to stay focused on the puck and tried to do my part.”
Both Markstrom and Tanev made life difficult for their former club. Tanev led the Flames in blocked shots with eight, including three when Calgary was short-handed.
“He’s been doing it for me every since I came to Vancouver,” Markstrom said. “It’s a great fit for him here.
“Guys love him already and they see why I loved him so much as a teammate before. I’m lucky to have him with me here in Calgary.
Calgary scored three power-play goals on six chances and held Vancouver to 0-for-4.
“I liked our game defensively five-on-five. Offensively I didn’t like our game,” Canucks coach Travis Green said. “We didn’t create enough and special teams were the difference.”
Tkachuk had time to go backhand to forehand on a Johnny Gaudreau rebound and beat Holtby’s outstretched right pad at 15:16 of the third period.
Andrew Mangiapane sent a behind-the-back backhanded feed across the high slot for Dube to rifle over Holtby’s shoulder at 16:22 of the second.
The hosts killed off a Canucks two-man advantage for 81 seconds in the opening period. Markstrom turned away three shots and Tanev blocked two attempts during it.
Tkachuk on Holtby’s left fed Monahan in the slot for a power-play goal at 8:31.
The Canucks (1-2-0) played their third road game in four nights to start the regular season. They get another chance to solve their former goaltender Monday in Calgary before returning to Vancouver.
“He played really well tonight. Not going to say he didn’t,” Canucks forward Bo Horvat said. “He stole games like that for us in previous years so we know how he can be.
“We’ve got to get in his eyes and create havoc in front of the net and we didn’t do that in front of him tonight.”
Calgary (1-0-1) has a more gentle start to its regular season with a five-day break following Monday’s rematch.
The Flames paid tribute to team president Ken King, who died March 11, and Calgary Police Service Sgt. Andrew Harnett who was killed while working New Year’s Eve.
Notes: Former Flames defenceman Travis Hamonic returned to the Saddledome wearing Canuck colours … Flames goaltender David Rittich dressed Saturday after sitting out the season-opener because of family issues … Off-season acquisition Dominik Simon made his Flames debut Saturday … Calgary is 9-8-3 in home openers since the turn of the century.