CALGARY -- After a sluggish start, the Vancouver Canucks are starting to look like the team that won the Presidents' Trophy and came within one win of the Stanley Cup last spring.
Three nights after filling the net in a 7-4 victory against Washington, the Canucks got goals from five players and 27 saves by Roberto Luongo to rout the Calgary Flames 5-1, getting their six-game road trip off to a fast start.
The Canucks, who led the NHL in offense last season, had scored just 14 times in their previous seven games before breaking out with 12 goals in the wins against Washington and Calgary.
"It's about playing the right way,"Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said. "Our guys are trying real hard around the other team's net. Net presence, going there, and we've been able to beat two pretty good goaltenders.”
Defenseman Alex Edler led the way with a goal and two assists while rookie center Cody Hodgson scored once and assisted on another goal as the Canucks improved to 9-0-2 in their last 11 against Calgary and 5-0-0 in their last five visits to the Scotiabank Saddledome.
The only satisfaction for the Flames, who finished 3-2-1 on their six-game homestand, was that Alex Tanguay scored in the final minute to spoil Luongo's shutout bid.
"Any positives?"Flames captain Jarome Iginla said. "Right now I don't see a ton. It's a game that we'll go over and look at things. We made mistakes and we'll try and learn from it. We totally got outplayed tonight. They deserved that game. We've been building up. We've been getting better. Unfortunately tonight was a big letdown for us. I know it was for our fans too.”
Chris Higgins opened the scoring for the Canucks at 7:57 after being sent in alone against Flames goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff. Higgins raced in and beat Kiprusoff with a nifty forehand-to-backhand deke before lifting the puck over the sprawled goaltender.
"It was a bouncing puck for Jannik and he had it on his backhand,"Higgins said. "He put it pretty much exactly where he had to put it, the right speed and everything. It was a hell of a pass. I had time to take a peek and decide to make the move because he was out pretty far.”
The goal came just after Vancouver caught Calgary on a bad line change allowing the Sedins to break in alone. Daniel Sedin fed Henrik Sedin, who cut in front of Kiprusoff, but rolled the puck through the crease. A down-and-out Kiprusoff sprawled back across his crease in time to stop Sami Salo's follow-up attempt.
The Canucks made it 2-0 at 13:42 with a power-play goal. After hitting the post earlier during the man advantage, Alexandre Burrows pushed home a Ryan Kesler rebound while being cross-checked into Kiprusoff to make it 2-0.
Luongo robbed Olli Jokinen with 1:25 left in the period, and the Canucks struck again before the period was over. With Flames rookie Roman Horak in the penalty box for slashing, the Sedins went to work again with some nice passing -- Henrik sent a pass through the slot to Daniel, who put it over a diving Kiprusoff at 19:41.
The Canucks kept on rolling in the second.
Just 3:43 in, Maxim Lapierre fired a feed from the right corner to an unchecked Hodgson positioned on the far post for a tap-in on Vancouver's 16th shot of the game.
"I'll take those any day,"Hodgson said. "It was an unbelievable play by Max to suck everyone over and then throw it over to me. That's all I need, an open net. I didn't even need to raise it.”
Shot No. 17, an Edler seeing-eye wrister from the point, beat a screened Kiprusoff at 11:27 for a 5-0 advantage. The 18th shot brought derisive cheers for Kiprusoff when he made the save.
"That's what we had talked about in between the first and the second,"Vigneault said. "We knew the second period has been an issue for us since the beginning of the year. We wanted to have a good second.”
Flames center Brendan Morrison wasn't happy with his team's performance through 40 minutes.
"This is embarrassing really when you look up at the scoreboard and it's 5-0 after the second period,"he said. "It's embarrassing. As player you have to find a way to keep going and take pride in your job and never quit at all."
Henrik Karlsson played the third period, stopping all three shots faced in relief.
Luongo was shaken up 1:32 into the final period when Flames forward Rene Bourque came barreling into him as they both dived at a loose puck on a clear break. The collision sent Luongo's helmet flying, but it was the Canucks who wound up killing a penalty when Henrik Sedin was assessed a double minor for high sticking on the play.
The four-minute man advantage couldn't spark the Flames, but Tanguay did get them on the board with 31.6 seconds left when he redirected a Tom Kostopoulos pass over Luongo's blocker.
Losing a shutout bid in the final minute of the game didn't faze Luongo.
"We got the two points, that's all that mattered,"Luongo said. "We got some big goals early on in the game and extend the lead in the second. We did a great job out there for 60 minutes.”
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