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Flames 4, Canucks 3 @NHLdotcom

CALGARY, Alberta (AP) -Byron Ritchie fought, scored, won face offs, did anything to prove to Calgary coach Jim Playfair that he belongs in the Flames' lineup.

After being benched Friday night against Columbus, Ritchie scored the go-ahead goal and the Flames took over first place in the Northwest Division with a 4-3 victory over the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday night.

Back in the lineup because of a foot injury suffered by Stephane Yelle, Ritchie wasted little time getting the home fans into it drawing a loud ovation from the sellout crowd of 19,289 after his spirited fight with Alex Burrows 5 minutes into the game.

"Byron did a good job in the face-off circle tonight, I thought he did a good job bringing energy in the fight and obviously he scored a huge goal for us. That's what good players do," Playfair said.

Calgary trailed 2-0 after the first period, but stormed back with four unanswered goals, two in the second period and two more in the third.

On the go-ahead goal at 8:39 of the third, Jeff Friesen's shot from the wing was stopped by Roberto Luongo, but the long rebound caromed right to Mark Giordano at the blue line and his shot was deflected by Ritchie as the Flames center was knocked to the ice.

"I just tried to create a screen and Giordano made a great shot and I was able to tip it in," Ritchie said of his eighth goal of the season.

Kristian Huselius extended his scoring streak to 12 games (8 goals, 10 assists) with a goal at 16:39 and that would be the winner as Taylor Pyatt got Vancouver back within a goal at 18:10.

Daymond Langkow and Alex Tanguay also scored for Calgary, which has earned points in each of its last seven games (5-0-2).

The Flames also continued their domination at Pengrowth Saddledome, where they have gone 20-2-0 over the last three months.

Daniel Sedin and Henrik Sedin also scored for Vancouver (29-20-4). The Canucks suffered their second regulation loss since Christmas.

The Canucks and Flames entered the night tied for the lead in the Northwest with 62 points apiece. Vancouver is now tied with Minnesota for second.

"We had a real poor performance in probably our biggest game of the year, it's inexcusable," Canucks captain Markus Naslund said. "Obviously, they deserved the win. Luongo kept us in there for a long time when maybe we shouldn't have been in there."

Down 2-0 after the first period despite outshooting Vancouver 15-12, Calgary got on the scoreboard at 8:39 capitalizing on a two-man advantage.

With the Canucks' Trevor Linden and Marc Chouinard penalized, Tanguay curled out front and sent a short pass to Langkow in the slot and he one-timed a shot inside the far post.

"That ended up a turning point in the game," Tanguay said. "From there, we really picked up confidence and we knew we were going to get back in this game."

Jarome Iginla picked up his second assist of the night on the tying goal at 13:00 setting up Tanguay nicely on a two-on-one.

"I don't think anybody's too happy right now in this locker room," Luongo said. "We're all disappointed in the outcome of the game and we know we could have played better as a team."

After killing off three penalties in the first 10 minutes, Vancouver jumped in front 1-0 at 13:18 when Henrik Sedin batted a rebound out of the air and past Miikka Kiprusoff.

It was another rebound that led to the Canucks' second goal 4 minutes later. Taylor Pyatt's slap shot was too hard for Kiprusoff to control and Daniel Sedin was at the side of the net to jam in his 20th of the season.

Luongo was superb in the Canucks net all night, making 38 saves.

"We got exactly what we deserved," Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said. "We talked before the game about being disciplined; we took eight stick penalties tonight. The team that wanted it the most got the game.

"They had more energy, they competed harder for loose pucks, they competed harder to protect the puck, they were the harder-working team tonight and if it hadn't been for Louie it would have been a totally lopsided affair."

Making his 13th straight start in a row, Kiprusoff finished with 26 saves.

Calgary lost defenseman Rhett Warrener to an undisclosed injury on the first shift of the game.

Notes: Yelle did not play after being hobbled by a shot off his foot Friday night versus Columbus. ... Referee Mick McGeough worked his 1,000th NHL game. The 49-year-old's NHL officiating career began in 1989. ... The Flames drop to 6-1-1 in the second game of back-to-back games. ... With RW Eric Godard in the lineup, Calgary has yet to lose in regulation (8-0-2). ... Calgary (22-0-0) is one of only two teams that are perfect when leading after two periods. The other is Carolina (18-0-0). ... Calgary has a plus-35 goal differential when playing 5-on-5 while Vancouver is minus-13.

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