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Depleted Canucks beat Flames in shootout

by Kevin Woodley

VANCOUVER -- The Vancouver Canucks survived a wild start to win in a dramatic finish against the Calgary Flames.

Chris Higgins scored the winning goal in the fifth round of the shootout to end a game that started with a line brawl almost three hours earlier, and the Canucks rallied from a third-period deficit to beat the Flames 3-2 on Saturday night.

"It was a bizarre start to the game and kind of carried over for a little bit," Higgins said after sliding a backhand deke through the legs of goaltender Karri Ramo. "I thought we stayed with it mentally. It was a tough game to stay with it, but we did a great job."

The brawl two seconds into the game left each team without four players -- and with only four defensemen -- for nearly 65 minutes.

Matt Stajan snapped a 16-game drought with a spinning backhand goal to put the Flames ahead 2-1 four minutes into the third period. But defenseman Yannick Weber tied it on a power play one-timer with 8:12 left and Mark Giordano in the penalty box for the second time in the period. Ryan Kesler won the ensuing draw back to Alexander Edler for a cross-ice pass that Weber blasted past Ramo's glove.

"I realized we were going to be down to four D the whole game and it was going to be a long night for us," said Weber, who tied the shootout in the second round with a shot that trickled through Ramo and into the net. "It was good to finally get a goal on the power play.

"Tying it up and getting the momentum back was good and to win in the shootout, especially that game and how it went, it's a huge win for us. We'll take a lot of confidence and pride out of that one."

Joe Colborne opened the shootout with a shot between Roberto Luongo's legs. But Luongo, playing his first game after missing six with an ankle injury, stopped Calgary's remaining shooters -- Jiri Hudler, Lee Stempniak, Sean Monahan and Mikael Backlund -- before Higgins won it.

"If it wasn't my first game back maybe I would have dropped the mitts too, but I didn't want to get hurt again," Luongo (31 saves) said of the early fights. "Quite frankly I was just focused on my first game and being ready to make a few saves."

Kesler also scored as the Canucks snapped a three-game skid with their second win in 10 games (2-5-4), but it may have been a costly win. In addition to possible discipline for coach John Tortorella for going into the tunnel that leads to the Calgary locker room as the Flames left the ice in the first intermission, captain Henrik Sedin did not play the third period or overtime because of injury.

"He's day to day," Tortorella said of Sedin, who played his 679th straight game despite an apparent rib injury suffered late in a 1-0 loss against the Phoenix Coyotes on Thursday. "He tried, but you could see, and I wasn't going to put him at any more risk. ... He's a pro, he tried to do whatever he could to help us, but I had to tell him to take his stuff off."

With both teams mired in lengthy slumps, the game opened with all five players on each team fighting off the opening faceoff. All 10 were assessed fighting majors and eight of the 10 were given game misconducts, leaving both teams with four defensemen and short benches while playing their fourth game in six nights.

Tortorella apologized to the players he had on the ice for the brawl, especially rookie Kellan Lain, whose NHL debut lasted two seconds. But Tortorella wasn't apologizing for putting his fourth line out to start the game after Calgary coach Bob Hartley opened with his.

"It's easy for people to say put the Sedins out there and it's deflated," Tortorella said. "I can't put our players at risk that way. With the lineup he had, I am not going to put those type of players at risk, and that's what ensues. I'm not proud of it. I have apologized to every one of the players involved in it. I don't feel great about it at all."

Hartley said there was no ill intent in starting a line that included Kevin Westgarth and Brian McGrattan.

"Those guys are playing well for us," Hartley said. "They got us a goal last game. We're not scoring many goals. We had zero intentions there. Those guys are playing hard for us. As far as I know, they were the home team. They had the luxury to put whoever they wanted on the ice. He decided who he puts on. It is what it is."

The animosity continued through a first period that ended with 188 penalty minutes and spilled into the intermission when Tortorella had to be restrained after going into the tunnel that leads to the Calgary locker room. Tortorella refused to discuss the incident or the possibility he will face a suspension as a result.

"I lifted my head and there he was," Hartley said. "I don't understand. I got out of there. I don't need to get suspended or fined. There is nothing to settle there. I just don't understand what was going on."

Hartley was proud of how his team played, picking up a point for just the third time in the past 12 games (2-9-1). Giordano also scored and Ramo finished with 31 saves.

"I am unbelievably proud of my guys," Hartley said. "They battled. We played 10 minutes with three defensemen. We were even more short than the Canucks and we kept battling. It's too bad they got that late power-play goal. I thought we played well enough to win."

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