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Cold as ice

by Derek Jory / Vancouver Canucks
Roberto Luongo’s night began with a sliding cross-crease save on Mike Cammalleri just 39 seconds into the game.

Twenty seconds later it was Todd Bertuzzi ripping a tricky shot on goal, Luongo stood tall to make the save.

Not long after that Lui was at it again shutting the door on another Flames scoring chance – I think you see where I’m going with this one.

Calgary threw everything they had at the Canucks captain on this night, 47 shots in all, but only one snuck past Luongo as he led Vancouver to a 4-1 win over Calgary.

“Obviously he was the difference in the game, that was probably one of his best performances all year,” said coach Alain Vigneault.

Luongo is admittedly a slow starter in games so he enjoys being tested early and often and the Canucks granted him his wish in the opening period.

Shots were 21-9 for the Flames after the first and the visitors continued blanketing the Canucks with pucks in the second to the tune of 14-8; Calgary hit Lui with 31 shots before one finally got past him.

If anything, that proved to be the red cape that pushed Luongo to his biggest save total of the season and largest since making 49 stops in a 3-2 win over Nashville last February, as he was cold as ice and unwilling to sacrifice anything down the stretch.

With Vancouver up 2-1 early in the third, Shane O’Brien and Willie Mitchell found themselves in penalty trouble putting the Canucks down 5-on-3 for a minute and six seconds.

The best penalty killer is usually the goaltender and Luongo supported that theory with a few sensational saves, including a stop on Jarome Iginla when he released heat from the top of the left faceoff circle with David Moss running a screen in front.

“He made an exceptional save, I didn’t know whether it hit traffic in front there and he was kind of going across left to right and he got his glove on it,” raved Mitchell.

“Roberto played exceptional, key stops at key times and that’s part of a team. Sometimes whether it’s the forwards not going or the ds not going, sometimes your goalie has to pick up the slack and vice versa and that works out over the course of the season and tonight was one of those ones where he carried us.”

No bigger a game have the Canucks played this season with the Northwest Division title going to the Flames with a Calgary win.

Thanks to Luongo, and goals from Rick Rypien, Henrik Sedin and Mattias Ohlund, who had a pair, the Canucks still have a shot at the division title that seemed like a mirage just a short while ago.

The Flames still control their own destiny because with more regular season wins than the Canucks, the boys from Cowtown win the tiebreak if it comes down to that.

Calgary plays a home-and-home with the Edmonton Oilers starting on Friday to wrap up the regular season, while Vancouver hosts the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday before traveling to Colorado to face the Avalanche on Saturday.

All the Canucks can do is win their remaining games and keep their fingers crossed that the Battle of Alberta gives the Flames some trouble, but Vancouver will need to be better than they were against Calgary to capture a pair of wins and hold up their end of the bargain.

“We have a lot of good things, we just have to go back to our pointers,” said Alex Burrows, who picked up his 23rd assist of the season on Henrik’s 21st goal.

“We’re a good team when we get pucks deep and we get on the forecheck, I think our fourth line tonight did a great job doing that, they really got on the forecheck and finished their checks and got some energy for us, every time they were out there they were buzzing.”

Read between the lines and the Canucks need to play with the intensity they displayed against the Flames for the rest of the season in order to be successful.

Despite Lui’s shinning play, Vancouver’s defence needs to buckle down as far as shots against are concerned, one or two less stops for the Canucks and this is a completely different game, one that most likely sways in favour of the Flames.

“Defensively the last three or four games we haven’t played good enough and Lui played great for us, he got two points for us,” said Ohlund.

“Obviously we’ve got some work to do the next few days and we’ve got to find a way to play better. Everybody knows that we have another level here and we have to find that in the next few days.”

Divisional title or not, the Canucks have two games left to tweak their play defensively and as the Avalanche and Kings are both in the bottom five for goals per game, they should make for good teams to work out the kinks against.

46 – Saves for Roberto Luongo, his highest total of the season

15 – Flames recorded at least one shot on Lui

– Goals for Mattias Ohlund in his first multi-goal game this year

400 NHL games played for Sami Salo

2 Games remaining for both the Canucks and Flames to decide the division champ

Led by fireball Rick Rypien, the fourth line netted Vancouver a goal near the end of the first.

Vancouver's regulars weren't having much success getting pucks on goal and when they were Miikka Kiprusoff was there to make the stop, so Mattias Ohlund also stepped up.

The longest serving Canuck scored two goals, including the game-winner.

Vancouver was outshot by Calgary 47-25.

The last line of defence had his mojo working as Luongo stopped 46 shots, but the fact the back end gave up that many is troubling.

There wasn't enough offensive focus for the Canucks early and that translated into a long night for the defence and Lui.

The blueliners did step up when they had to, namely during a Calgary 5-on-3 early in the third.

The Flames had six opportunities to change this game drastically, good thing Vancouver's penalty killers were up to the test.

Calgary finished 0-for-6 on the power play with 10 shots for; Vancouver scored once on the man advantage while only getting four shots through.
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