VANCOUVER – Zack Kassian finally feels comfortable in Vancouver this season after arriving late last season in a trade.
The big winger sure looks comfortable on the Canucks' top line.
Kassian had a coming-out party one day before celebrating his 22nd birthday, scoring his second goal of the season in regulation and adding what proved to be the winner in the fifth round of a shootout to lift Vancouver to a 3-2 win against the Calgary Flames on Wednesday night.
"From management down to the coaches to the players, I definitely feel more comfortable," said Kassian, who was acquired from Buffalo for Cody Hodgson, a trade that is still widely debated in Vancouver. "As a player, the more comfortable you feel, the better you play."
Getting a chance to skate with Daniel and Henrik Sedin doesn't hurt, either.
Kassian scored with the top-line twins on Sunday to earn a regular shift there against the Flames, and responded with his best game as a Canuck. He opened the scoring with a strong individual effort 6:20 into the second period, and ended it with an even more dominant move in the shootout, getting Miikka Kiprusoff sliding to his left with a hard fake before quickly pulling the puck back the other way and tucking a backhand into the empty net.
"Every player has a couple of moves they go to and that's one of mine and luckily it went in tonight," Kassian said.
Cory Schneider, back in goal after being pulled from the season opener Saturday and watching Roberto Luongo start Sunday, then sealed Vancouver's first win by stopping Curtis Glencross.
"It's fun having the game on the line and you gotta make a save," said Schneider. "That's an opportunity I relish."
Mason Raymond also scored, while Schneider, who gave up five goals on 14 shots in his debut as the new No.1 goaltender on Saturday, finished with 34 saves through the end of overtime.
"He responded the way I expected he would respond – by playing well," Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said.
Vigneault wasn't as complimentary of the rest of his team after blowing a two-goal lead for a second-straight game. But unlike Sunday's 3-2 shootout loss to Edmonton, the Canucks finished this one off, with Alex Burrows scoring in the first round and Schneider stopping four of five to preserve Vancouver's first win of the season.
After dominating the first half of the second period and scoring twice while outshooting the Flames 13-1, the Canucks allowed Calgary to tie it back up before the period ended. Alex Tanguay started the comeback on a 2-on-1, and Mikael Backlund scored at the tail end of three straight power plays that included two lengthy 5-on-3s.
Kiprusoff finished with 34 saves for the Flames, who remain winless under new coach Bob Hartley, but picked up their first point.
"We generated lots of confidence out of this," Hartley said. "The beauty of hockey is it's a game of momentum. There's lots of swings and it seems at least we always find a way to get back in the game and we're not quitting, so I think that is a very positive point."
There wasn't as much to like about the start. After falling behind 3-0 early in a 5-4 loss to Anaheim on Monday, Calgary made it through a slow first period between two winless division rivals with a combined eight new forward lines, but was dominated to start the second.
Kassian followed up his failed wraparound with help from Calgary defenseman Mark Giordano. The Flames' defender threw the loose puck fro the wrap back to Kassian inside the right faceoff circle, the sprawled out to block his first shot, only to have the puck bounce right back to Kassian, who quickly fired it high over a stranded Kiprusoff.
Raymond made it 2-0 two minutes and two shots later, beating a screened Kiprusoff over the blocker from the top off the circles.
But Hartley switched up his lines soon after, reuniting Alex Tanguay and Jarome Iginla, and Tanguay sparked the comeback by looking off the Calgary captain on a 2-on-1 and firing a shot in off the far post.
After failing to convert two 5-on-3 advantages, Backlund scored on the last of three-straight Canucks penalties – to Alexander Edler for concealing the puck with his glove – with a shot from between the circles off a rush feed from Iginla that beat Schneider low.
"In the third period and overtime, we carried the play for the most part," Tanguay said. "We just haven't been able to put a full game together, but we are starting to figure out the way Coach Hartley wants us to play and we're starting to get more used to what we have to do out there and the latter part of the game was a good example of that. We've had bits and pieces where we just control the play."
It was almost enough for the Flames first win. But Schneider made a sprawled left pad save to rob Tanguay midway through overtime – his second fully extended goal-line stand of the game, with the early splits requiring a video review – and was only beaten by Tanguay in the shootout, making three game-saving stops after that.
"Obviously, he had that huge save to make in overtime, which gave us a chance to go out in the shootout," Vigneault said.