VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) - It wasn't the way Ed Jovanovski drew it up in his head but the Vancouver Canucks were happy with the final picture.
Jovanovski returned from a 2 1/2 month absence and scored in overtime to lift the Vancouer Canucks to a 3-2 win over the Calgary Flames on Saturday night.
"We made it a little bit too close for my liking," said Jovanovski. "I didn't script it like that, but it feels good to get back and have that good feeling about yourself."
It was a triumphant return for Jovanovski, who was wrestling over returning from Feb. 1 abdominal surgery until talking things over with his doctor just before his afternoon nap. Nine hours later, Markus Naslund spotted him trailing on the rush and Jovanovski snapped a quick wrist shot through the legs of Miikka Kiprusoff to keep the Canucks playoff hopes alive.
"I had a big-time tug of war not knowing if I was going to play," Jovanovski said. "I had a long discussion with the doctor who did the surgery and the first words out of his mouth were 'go for it'. He said your body will be healed and tightness you are feeling will just be from lack of muscle."
Despite the loss, Calgary clinched a playoff spot when Mark Giordano and Byron Ritchie scored two minutes apart midway through the third period to force overtime.
That was enough to give the Flames a point for the seventh straight game despite playing for the second straight night and third time in four days.
"In the end character stepped up for us and battled to get a point," said coach Darryl Sutter, adding the Canucks got an extra lift from Jovanovski's return.
"Obviously Jovo's a top-10 defenseman in the National Hockey league and it's not just on ice. It's the whole persona that he brings. He has an identity, a strong identity and I m sure he's an important guy in the locker room too."
Jovanovski was actually in the penalty box when Giordano scored, but made up for it in the extra period as the Canuck moved into an eighth-place tie with San Jose.
Vancouver only has four games remaining, including a home-and-home set with the Sharks on Wednesday and Thursday. But first the Canucks host Anaheim Monday.
"This type of emotional win will hopefully catapult us into the next game," said coach Marc Crawford.
Brendan Morrison and Mattias Ohlund scored first-period power play goals for the Canucks, who had several chances to put the game away in regulation. But they couldn't beat Kiprusoff, who was back in net one night after winning his franchise-record 40th game of the season.
Kiprusoff got little help from an early parade to the penalty box that resulted in five power plays chances for the Canucks in the first period.
With Jovanovski back on the point, Vancouver wasted little time converting the first one. Jovanovski's point shot through traffic was stopped, but the puck squirted out of a scrum in front to Morrison, who snapped it into an empty net.
Ohlund converted the fifth advantage with 1:01 left in the period after Calgary defenseman Andrew Ference dove to knock a loose puck out of the slot, only to send it straight to the Canucks defenseman, who snapped it high over Kiprusoff.
Both goalies were good and lucky in the second period.
Jarome Iginla hit the post behind Alex Auld a minute in, and the Canucks keeper stopped Roman Hamrlik on a shorthanded breakaway coming out the penalty box after the Flames killed off the start of a short 5-on-3 midway through the period.
At the other end, Kiprusoff made great scramble saves off Daniel Sedin and Alexandre Burrows in tight, and got a break when Todd Bertuzzi somehow missed a wide open net from three feet with 2:22 left in the period.
Eric Weinrich hit the post with 2:30 left in the third as Kiprusoff kept the opposition to three goals or less for the 33rd straight start.
"Kiprusoff kept them in the game," said Crawford.
Giordano started Calgary's rally with a power play point shot through a crowd for his first NHL point at 10:06, and Ritchie beat Auld with a sharp angle backhand shot from just inside the left faceoff circle at 12:09.
Despite the point, Calgary's gap over Colorado shrunk to six points in the race to win the Northwest Division - the Flames first division title in 12 years - and claim the third seed in the Western Conference playoffs.
Notes: After losing the first four games of the season series to Calgary, the Canucks won the last four. The Canucks sent D Kevin Bieksa down to the Manitoba Moose of the American Hockey League to make room for Jovanovski, who hadn't played since Jan. 24. After snapping a career-worst 31-game goal drought in Friday's 2-1 win over Minnesota, Tony Amonte extended his point streak to four games with an assist on Giordano's goal.
|PPG - Brendan Morrison (17) ASST: Todd Bertuzzi (43), Markus Naslund (43)|
1 - 0 VAN
|PPG - Mattias Ohlund (12) ASST: NONE|
2 - 0 VAN
|PPG - Jarome Iginla (34) ASST: Mark Giordano (1), Jamie Lundmark (18)|
2 - 1 VAN
|Byron Ritchie (3) ASST: Daymond Langkow (32), Jarome Iginla (29)|
2 - 2 Tie
|Ed Jovanovski (7) ASST: Markus Naslund (44), Brendan Morrison (36)|
3 - 2 VAN
|Darren McCarty Roughing|
|Shean Donovan Tripping|
|Jarkko Ruutu Roughing|
|Jarome Iginla Hi-sticking|
|Anson Carter Cross checking|
|Andrew Ference Hi-sticking|
|Bryan Marchment Elbowing|
|Jamie Lundmark Holding|
|Ryan Kesler Roughing|
|Ed Jovanovski Tripping|
|Roman Hamrlik Interference|
|Bryan Marchment Interference|
|Andrew Ference Cross checking|
|Todd Bertuzzi Interference on goalkeeper|
|Mattias Ohlund Holding|
|Darren McCarty Roughing|
|Bryan Allen Roughing|
|Ed Jovanovski Tripping|
|Jarkko Ruutu Hooking|