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In surprise start, Luongo leads Canucks past Flames

by Aaron Vickers

CALGARY -- Roberto Luongo wasn't supposed to get the start.

The Calgary Flames may have preferred it that way.

A late replacement after Cory Schneider fell ill, Luongo kicked out 40 shots while the Vancouver Canucks erupted for three goals in a 4:50 span late in the third to beat the Flames 4-1 at Scotiabank Saddledome on Wednesday.

"I wouldn't say [it was] a statement, but I really needed to do this first and foremost for myself," Luongo said. "I've been through a lot the last few weeks, so I wanted to really make sure I showed the guys that I'm here for the rest of the year and I'm 100-percent dedicated and I want to make sure they know that."

Luongo was announced as the surprise starter in the afternoon after Schneider wasn't available to play. The Canucks signed University of Calgary goaltender Dustin Butler to serve as backup to Luongo, who made his first start in 12 games.

"I was nervous, which go figure after 12 years in the League, you're still nervous to play a game," Luongo said. "It was an important game for me and I wanted to make sure I gave the team a chance to win and the boys battled hard and got rewarded in the third with some goals."

Calgary's loss combined with a Colorado Avalanche win puts the Flames just one point up on 30th place in the NHL standings. Out of the Western Conference playoff race, the loss didn't have a particular sting to Mike Cammalleri.

“Let's be honest, right now, when you win or lose, it doesn't have the same effect as when you're in a playoff race and a game like that happens, you say, 'Oh my God, we outplayed them and didn't get the two points.'"

Maxim Lapierre ensured the Canucks would leave with the pair of points, the club’s fourth straight victory.

After a Chris Butler turnover behind the net, Andrew Ebbett fed Lapierre in the slot, who chipped the puck behind Flames starter Miikka Kiprusoff to give the Vancouver a 2-1 lead at 12:37.

Mason Raymond added an insurance marker 3:03 later, batting a Dan Hamhuis rebound out of mid-air and behind Kiprusoff to extend the lead to two.

Daniel Sedin put the finishing touches on the game, taking a pass from Henrik Sedin in the slot and beating Kiprusoff via the power play to make it 4-1 at 17:27. It was Daniel’s first power-play goal since Jan. 25.

"They're a hard team to play against," Canucks center Ryan Kesler said. "They throw a lot of pucks on net and I don't think we played our best game in the first two periods and the third, we put some shifts together finally and scored some goals."

The flurry came after Luongo shined earlier in the third, making 17 saves in the final 20 minutes.

Luongo denied both Mikael Backlund and Curtis Glencross in succession. Gaining the blue line with a head of steam, Backlund fired a snapshot Luongo handled. Flying by the net, Glencross knocked the rebound out of mid-air, but right into the glove of the Canucks’ keeper to preserve the 1-1 tie.

"That was kind of a lucky save," Luongo said. "The puck went up in the air on the rebound and he just batted it out the air and it just so happened to go in my glove. Sometimes it’s good to be lucky."

After passing the midway mark of the period, Luongo's acrobatics were on display again. After kicking our a rebound on Lee Stempniak's initial shot, he dived fully outstretched to keep the ensuing crease scramble at bay.

"It felt like pucks were hitting me," Luongo said. "It's always nice when you have that feeling that it finds your body. I wish it could happen a bit more often."

Trading chances through the opening 20 minutes of the game, Glencross was first to capitalize.

Taking a pass from Maxwell Reinhart and working the puck into the slot, Glencross had his initial shot blocked by Kesler. But he seized control of the puck again and beat Luongo to the blocker at 16:17. With an assist on the play, Reinhart recorded his first career NHL point.

“I think it takes a little bit of pressure off you, a little bit of a relief," Reinhart said. "I was just able to settle down there, knowing I got at least one point while I was up here."

It took the Canucks just 64 seconds to respond to Glencross' tally.

Scrambling around the crease with Kiprusoff down, Alexandre Burrows tried to nudge the puck over the line and got help after Dennis Wideman inadvertently poked the puck into the Flames net with 2:39 remaining in the frame.

Daniel Sedin did his best to break the tie 4:05 into the second period, but his booming shot from the high slot was met by Kiprusoff's left pad.

Kiprusoff was equally as good just a dozen seconds into Kesler's hooking minor, making a sprawling shorthanded stop off Burrows after a nice set-up from Lapierre at 11:50.

Killing Sven Baertschi's tripping minor with six minutes left in the second, Kiprusoff was equally as impressive.

First, Kiprusoff blockered away Kesler's attempt in the slot after a stationary give-and-go feed with Burrows parked to the left of the goal. The Flames' goaltender got lucky on the same power play after Kesler -- playing just his second game after missing 19 with a broken ankle -- deflected a Daniel Sedin blast from the point.

Equal to the task, Luongo denied Reinhart his first career goal with just 10.3 seconds remaining, trapping a blast off the stick of the 21-year-old after he took a soft drop pass from Wideman.

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