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Naslund shines as Canucks stay unbeaten against Northwest Division rivals

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VANCOUVER - Roberto Luongo helped the Vancouver Canucks forget about their depleted blue-line for one night.

The Canucks goaltender stopped 29 of the 30 shots he faced as the Canucks defeated the Calgary Flames 4-1 Sunday night in a game that wasn't as one-sided as the score indicated.

The Canucks played without defenceman Mattias Ohlund after he received a four-game suspension earlier in the day for slashing Minnesota centre Mikko Koivu across the back of the legs Friday night. Vancouver was already missing reliable rearguards Kevin Bieksa (lacerated calf) and Sami Salo (broken nose), who are both out indefinitely.

"We lost another D-man with 'Ohlie,' but the guys picked up the slack," said Luongo.

Vancouver only managed to take 21 shots on Calgary netminder Miikka Kiprusoff as the Canucks improved to 8-0-1 against Northwest Division rivals while remaining unbeaten in three games against Calgary this season.

"We're just going to keep riding it and try to take as many points as we can when we have a chance," Luongo said of Vancouver's dominance over divisional foes.

When he wasn't shining, Markus Naslund and his linemates Henrik and Daniel Sedin were. Naslund scored a goal and added an assist while Henrik Sedin provided a goal and one helper. Daniel Sedin assisted on each of their markers.

Defenceman Willie Mitchell and Brad Isbister - with their first goals of the season - also scored as the Canucks improved to

10-8-1 after a slow start to the season.

Adrian Aucoin was the lone Calgary marksman as the Flames (8-9-3) saw their two-game win streak end. Ironically, Aucoin's goal came on the first shot Luongo faced, 4:52 into the first period, after the Canucks had already fired six at Kiprusoff and built up a 1-0 lead.

"Luongo was probably the difference for them," said Calgary coach Mike Keenan.

The goaltender was especially strong in the second period as the Flames failed to score on two 5-on-3 power-play opportunities. The Canucks only managed 11 shots over the final 40 minutes.

Naslund's goal was his second in two games. He took Henrik Sedin's hard pass on his skate and then calmly put it past Kiprusoff on a power play at 17:52, giving Vancouver a 3-1 advantage.

The goal came while Calgary winger Owen Nolan was in the penalty box for what appeared to be an inadvertent slash to the head of Luongo.

"It was definitely one of (Naslund's) best games this season,"

said Canucks coach Alain Vigneault. "I thought he was solid at both ends of the rink."

Vigneault said stopping the Flames on the two early second-period power plays were the turning point.

"We couldn't finish, but maybe that was (because of) Luongo's ability," said Keenan. "We had puck possession and we had some opportunities, but he stopped the puck. He was exceptional, and Naslund and the two Sedins were by far the best players in the game."'

Mitchell gave Vancouver a 2-1 lead at 9:52 of the second period as he pinched in from the point to fire home Naslund's back-door pass. It was Vancouver's first shot of the middle frame.

"It's nice to see (Mitchell) score," said Luongo. "We're not going to see that every day."

Ohlund was replaced by defenceman Lukas Krajicek, who returned to the Vancouver lineup after being sidelined since Nov. 1 with an ankle injury. Canucks general manager Dave Nonis said Krajicek returned to action earlier than planned because of the suspension.

Krajicek finished with a plus-one mark in about 18 minutes of ice time.

"It was impressive," said Luongo of the defenceman's return. "He didn't have a lot of skates. I think it was three skates before he played, so it was not an easy situation for him. He kept it simple and he did a good job."

Calgary lost defenceman Robyn Regehr 1:31 into the game as he took a Krajicek slapshot in the side of the head. Regehr left the ice while clutching a towel to his right ear and immediately went to the dressing room. He did not return.

"Big loss early in the game," said Flames head coach Mike Keenan. "It's unfortunate in a game like this. But we've got no complaints, because you look at their roster and the people they have out."

Keenan said Regehr was held out for precautionary reasons and will be evaluated Monday.

"I think he's fine," said Keenan.

Many observers believe he lost his job as coach and general manager of the Florida Panthers largely because he traded Luongo to the Canucks in the summer of 2006 after contract negotiations reached an impasse. But Luongo said he felt no extra motivation to beat his former bench boss.

"That's all done," said Luongo. "The Flames are one of our biggest rivals to begin with. I don't need any added incentive there."

NOTES - Vancouver winger Jannik Hansen was a healthy scratch for the second straight game . . . The Canucks recorded their 185th consecutive sellout crowd of 18,630.

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