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Flames were fired up for this four-game road swing through B.C. and California, and kicked it off in style with an offensive explosion against Canucks

by TY PILSON @typilson /

VANCOUVER - Like excited youngsters about to pile into the family car, the Flames were amped up when they left for this current four-game trip.

After dropping three straight at the Scotiabank Saddledome during a quick homestand, the players said it was the perfect time for a roadie.

The team could regroup, refocus, and get back on track in their dogged pursuit of a playoff berth.


Video: Brendan Parker recaps a 6-2 win over the Canucks


Well, it seemed to be the right tonic Saturday night, as the team opened their four-game excursion witha 6-2 win over the Canucks at Rogers Arena.

It was a welcome offensive explosion for a team that had trouble lighting the lamp as of late.

Milan Lucic, who grew up in the Lower Mainland, was a beast in the game, scoring once, adding an assist, setting up plays, and being a physical presence on the ice all night.

The sizeable contingent of Flames fans in attendance rewarded his play with the well-known 'Loooooooooooooch' chant on a regular basis.

David Rittich, who got the start between the pipes, made 25 saves for the victory.

Fast goals have become a hallmark of Flames games recently. 

Either by them or the opposition.

Saturday night it was the Canucks who struck first, just 34 seconds in, when young phenom blueliner Quinn Hughes found Tanner Pearson cutting across the high slot and his wrister went under the outstretched left pad of Rittich as he went down in the butterfly. 

Off the ensuing faceoff, Matthew Tkachuk - lined up on the wing - and J.T. Miller - who was taking the faceoff - dropped the mitts right after the puck dropped for a quick spirited tustle.

Mark Jankowski later fired a puck on net from the right boards that Jacob Markstrom stopped, with Noah Hanifin getting two whacks at it in front of the net but unable to get a good shot off.

The Flames tied it up at the 4:20 mark, when Lucic took a pass from Dillon Dube and skated hard into the Vancouver zone, hitting the binders in the right corner and feeding a trailing Derek Ryan.

No. 10 snapped it home for his 10th of the year.


Video: CGY@VAN: Ryan sneaks wrister home from the circle


Tkachuk scored his team's second of the night at 12:08, holding the puck before trying to slide a backhand under Markstrom, who made the initial stop but the puck went off Tkachuk's skate and in.

The officials reviewed it but the goal stood.


Video: CGY@VAN: Tkachuk scores off second chance in front


On the next Canucks possession, Rittich flashed the leather for a 10-bell save on a streaking Bo Horvat, robbing the Canucks captain. 

With 1:47 left to play in the first, TJ Brodie's clear attempt behind his net took a weird bounce off the boards and right to Adam Gaudette, who skated out all alone and put it home.

Dube restored the one-goal lead at 2:51 of the second, taking a pass from Ryan and skating out high above the right faceoff dot and snapping a wrister through traffic that found a hole far-side past Markstrom.


Video: CGY@VAN: Dube beats Markstrom through traffic


Lucic made another great rush up ice later in the frame, tossing a pass out to Brodie who streaked in alone but tried to pass back to Lucic, but it just out of his reach. 

Markstrom absolutely robbed Sean Monahan in tight on a third-period powerplay, but Lucic later converted while still a man up, parking himself in the slot and tipping home a shot by Mikael Backlund at 6:48.


Video: CGY@VAN: Lucic deflects Backlund's pass home for PPG


Monahan iced the game at 16:01 with a beautiful goal off a 2-on-1 with Johnny Gaudreau, taking the pass from his frequent partner in crime and making no mistake for his 17th of the campaign.

The duo, along with Elias Lindholm who got the other helper, were reunited as a line for the contest as interim coach Geoff Ward tried to kickstart the team's offence.


Video: CGY@VAN: Monahan scores in 3rd period


Tobias Rieder added an empty-netter.

Travis Hamonic left the game after a hit along the boards in the second period. He returned for a shift but then left and didn't come back.



Lucic on the victory:

"It was huge, you know. Even though we gave up the first goal in the first minute of the game, I think our mindset was in the right place. We were ready to play and if you look at the game as a whole, it was probably our most complete game of the year. You know, we talked a lot about (it) the last two, three days, is just winning one game, you know, win that one game and get back in the win column. (Then) focus on the next one. We were able to do that tonight."


Lucic on his goal:

"You know, it's funny. Backs said if the puck went over to him that way this morning, for me to go backdoor and he was going to try and find that seam. So when Dubes made the play to him, that's exactly where I went and he did a great job just finding my stick."


Video: "It was probably our most complete game of the year"


Dube on team breaking out of funk:

"I think it was good. I think we battled right until the end and everyone contributed tonight. It was nice to see the work pay off in a game like that for how tight we were and how well we did."


Andersson on much-needed win:

"Big game for all of us. We played really well over 60 minutes. Ya, we came to play today. Now we just have to keep going. It's a long road trip and we play three more divisional games on this road trip so we just got to keep going here. That was a huge win today, obviously, chasing a team that's ahead of us. We feel really good right now."


On offensive explosion:

"I think it gives a lot of confidence to a lot of players in here. As I said, we were all over the net today, honestly. We had a lot of scoring chances in the second period. It could have been many more goals but Markstrom played well in their net. It's one of those nights where, honestly, we could have scored more."


Tkachuk on getting away to regroup:

"To come here on the road, I think it was perfect for us to kind of all be together again and get through this together against the top team in the Pacific. I thought we did a great job of responding tonight - great team effort."


Geoff Ward on his club's performance:

"I thought it was a real gritty effort by our team. I liked our compete from the start of the game to the end of it. And a real good team win. There was a lot of great things that we can take out of this game and we'll enjoy the off day tomorrow and then regroup and get ready for San Jose."


Video: "I thought it was a really gritty effort by our team" 



These two clubs had already met twice this season, with the Flames winning 3-0 at the Scotiabank Saddledome on Oct. 5, and falling 5-2 on Dec. 29, also at home. They will play one more time this regular season: on March 27 at Rogers Arena ... Gaudreau made his NHL debut on April 13, 2014 against the Canucks where he scored his first career goal ... Backlund recorded his first career hat-trick on April 7, 2016 against Vancouver ... Ryan is 10 games away from 300 in his career ...  The Flames now have a record of 16-15-4 against Western Conference opponents, and are 9-8-1 against the Pacific Division ... Hamonic's brother Jesse was in the house with his family last night, to cross off watching his brother in the last arena in the league. Check out the video below.

Video: Travis's brother crosses off 31st and last rink




Tweet from @NHLFlames: Here are your starters, presented by @Schneiders!


Trios and d-pairings to start the game:


Johnny Gaudreau - Sean Monahan - Elias Lindholm

Andrew Mangiapane - Mikael Backlund - Matthew Tkachuk

Milan Lucic - Derek Ryan - Dillon Dube

Tobias Rieder - Mark Jankowski - Sam Bennett


TJ Brodie - Travis Hamonic

Noah Hanifin - Rasmus Andersson

Oliver Kylington - Michael Stone


David Rittich



The Flames continue this four-game road swing by jetting to California to face the Sharks on Monday, the Kings on Wednesday and the Ducks on Thursday. They return home to face the Blackhawks next Saturday in a Hockey Night In Canada tilt. Click here for tickets.

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