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Canucks drop openers

by Derek Jory / Vancouver Canucks

It didn’t matter if the Vancouver Canucks were at home or on the road for their first pre-season games of the 2010-11 season, the results were the same.

The Canucks dropped a 3-1 decision to the Calgary Flames at Rogers Arena Tuesday night and earlier in the evening Vancouver lost to the Flames 3-2 in Calgary as both teams dressed two squads on the night.

In Vancouver a two-goal outburst from the Flames in the first 1:32 of the third period put the Canucks in a 3-0 hole too deep to dig out of. Niklas Hagman, Staffan Kronwall and Mitch Wahl combined for six points to hand Vancouver its first (technically its second) regulation loss in the last three pre-seasons.

Raffi Torres had the lone Canucks goal as he dove to beat Steve Staios to a loose puck in the Calgary crease midway through the third.

Despite not hitting the scoresheet, former Canucks forward Brendan Morrison made a successful return to Vancouver in his first regular season contest back since April 5, 2007.

Skating on a line with Bill Sweatt and Guillaume Desbiens, Morrison was swift on the attack drawing two penalties and recording a shot and four takeaways for the Canucks.

All eyes were focused on the Canucks hopeful and despite playing with a few greenhorns, nerves didn’t play a part in his game.

“I wasn’t as nervous as I was for my first pro game or anything, I’m familiar with the surroundings, the arena, the people here, the guys, but there was still a freshness tonight when I went out there and I was excited about playing,” said Morrison, who went 12-for-18 on faceoffs.

Morrison got the biggest cheer of anyone prior to puck drop and after he stole the puck at centre ice and drew a penalty on Mark Giordano early in the first period, the fans showed their appreciation again.

“Yeah, that was fun,” laughed Morrison. “Usually you never hear the crowd when you’re playing, but I think when we drew that first penalty they were getting a little excited there so I had a little laugh at that and it was much appreciated.”

Cory Schneider looked good in net for Vancouver stopping 17 of 18 shots in 40 minutes of ice time before giving up the crease to prospect David Shantz.

Schneider may be penciled in as backup to Roberto Luongo in Vancouver, but he made it clear he isn’t taking the posting for granted. On several occasions he outdid himself to keep the puck out of the net and the Canucks in the game.

“The game had a little bit of a slow start with everyone trying to feel it out as the first one back,” assessed Schneider. “I had a couple of long shots that I was able to handle in my midsection there and cover up and it’s always nice to feel the puck early on to get your timing down and everything and as the game went on you just get more comfortable.”

The Canucks looked anything but comfortable to open the first period, but they picked up their play in the second. The Flames followed the same story line and they were able to get on the board first when Hagman opened the scoring with less than three minutes to play in the second period.

Off a faceoff win by Wall in the Vancouver zone, Kronwall sprung Hagman, who went around Stefan Schneider and Evan Oberg before snapping a shot past Schneider.

The Flames were quick to double and triple their lead early in the third after a goaltending switch had Shantz in net. Just 28 seconds into the frame Rene Bourque sent a laser over Shantz’s shoulder for a 2-0 lead; Calgary wasn’t finished there with Kronwall scoring off a give-and-go with Wall to give the Flames a 3-0 advantage and the eventual win.

At the Saddledome in Calgary the Canucks succumbed to the same result, but put up a little bit of a bigger fight on the scoreboard. Vancouver lost 3-2 with Jarome Iginla scoring the game-winner at 9:17 of the third period.

Ales Kotalik and Mikael Backlund had the other Calgary goals, while Jannik Hansen and Marco Rosa replied for Vancouver. Eddie Lack played two periods for the Canucks making 16 saves before Tyler Weiman stopped five of seven pucks.

NOTES: Rick Rypien was injured in Vancouver's home game after a collision with Mark Giordano forced him from the ice in the first period; Kevin Bieksa, Manny Malhotra and Brendan Morrison all wore an A as assistant captains for this game; Desbiens finished with a game-high 11 hits.

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