The Flames started their 30th season in Calgary and ended a six-game losing streak on opening night by pumping four pucks past Roberto Luongo on Thursday night, then holding on for a 5-3 victory. Calgary led 3-0 and 4-1, but the Canucks cut the margin to 4-3 and forced Kiprusoff into a series of acrobatic stops before Dion Phaneuf's blast into an empty net with 1:03 remaining triggered an eruption by a relieved sellout crowd of 19,289.
The victory was the first for new coach Brent Sutter -- and the first of his career on opening night for Kiprusoff, who made 39 saves, 20 in the third period. He had lost his four previous opening-night appearances.
"Our goalie played very well," said Sutter, who came home to Alberta after coaching the New Jersey Devils for two seasons. "I'm not sitting here and doing handstands and thinking we played a great game, but we played a pretty darned good game for 38 minutes. We backed off and that's where we have to continue to work and push. It's a win, but it's a work in progress."
Defenseman Jay Bouwmeester also played his first game as a Flame after signing to a five-year contract during the summer. He logged 29:10, easily the most of any player on either side.
"At the end of the day teams are close in this league and a win's a win," the 25-year-old Edmonton native said. "It's all good."
The game started as if it would be a laugher.
The Flames, clad in the red, white and gold they wore when the franchise moved from Atlanta to Calgary in 1980, came out storming and led 3-0 before the game was 12 minutes old.
Mark Giordano had a hand in a pair of power-play goals 2:06 apart that gave the Flames a quick lead. His wrister from the right point sailed through a screen and past a screened Luongo at 5:50, and his feed to Nigel Dawes started a play that saw Rene Bourque left alone in the slot to beat Luongo again at 7:56.
"We got some pucks behind their D, got a couple of power plays and capitalized," said Giordano, a defenseman who missed the final weeks of last season due to a shoulder injury that required surgery.
When Adam Pardy's blast from the left point went past a screened Luongo at 11:52, it looked like the rout might be on. It wasn't.
Kevin Bieksa got the Canucks on the board 4:02 into the second period when his point shot hit the stick of Calgary's Fredrik Sjostrom and went past a defenseless Kiprusoff at 4:02. Brandon Prust came out of the right corner, bulled through the defense and jammed the puck past Luongo to restore the Flames' three-goal lead at 9:34, but Mikael Samuelsson's power-play goal at 18:50 cut Vancouver's deficit to two goals at intermission.
The Canucks came out storming and made it a one-goal game 41 seconds into the third period when Alex Burrows capped a half-minute of intense pressure by whacking the puck under Kiprusoff, who had made two great saves but was left helpless by his defense.
"It was typical Miikka," Prust said. "He played great and kept us in there late. They kept coming at us, but he kept us in it."
Vancouver kept firing away, but Kiprusoff was perfect over the final 19:19 and Phaneuf's goal sent the Flames home a winner on opening night for just the second time in 15 years despite being outshot 42-23.
"You can't spot a team like that a two- or three-goal lead and expect to win," Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault said.
--John Kreiser, NHL.com
Material from wire services and team online and broadcast media was used in this report