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GAME: Vancouver Canucks at Calgary Flames.

PLAYOFF SERIES: Western Conference quarterfinals; Canucks lead 2-1.

TIME: Tuesday, 10 p.m. EDT.

Losing a starting goaltender in the playoffs could cause a team to panic.

It only made the Vancouver Canucks play better.

With Johan Hedberg expected to make his first start this postseason, Vancouver will try to take a 3-1 series lead back home when it faces the Calgary Flames in Game 4 of the quarterfinal series.

With Hedberg playing in place of injured Dan Cloutier, the Canucks grabbed a 2-1 series lead with a 2-1 victory in Game 3 on Sunday at Calgary.

Captain Markus Naslund scored in the second period and Matt Cooke snapped a tie 89 seconds into the third for the Canucks, who aren't expected to have Cloutier for Game 4.

Late in a scoreless first period Sunday, Cloutier made a save on a shot by Calgary's Oleg Saprykin. The puck rebounded out front and Cloutier appeared to twist his knee while scrambling to reach it.

Cloutier had to be helped off the ice with what the team termed a "lower body injury." Third-stringer Alex Auld appeared on the bench early in the second period.

Hedberg was beaten by Chris Simon 64 seconds into middle period, but was perfect the rest of the way, finishing with 19 saves. Vancouver tightened up defensively in the final period, making sure Hedberg didn't have many difficult saves to make.

"After we got the lead, we didn't give them much," Naslund said. "Our defense is playing strong and we're not screwing around with the puck and gambling. We're making smart plays and making sure we don't turn pucks over."

Cloutier returned to Vancouver on Monday to have the apparent knee injury evaluated, meaning Hedberg likely will start Game 4.

As a rookie in 2002, Hedberg started all 18 playoff games for Pittsburgh as it advanced to the Eastern Conference finals before losing to New Jersey.

Hedberg's appearance Sunday was his first since a 5-4 loss at Columbus on March 21.

"That run with Pittsburgh has really helped me throughout my career," Hedberg said. "I draw on that experience all the time. You've been there once, you know what it's about, how long the series are, not to get too high or too low."

Losing Cloutier means the Canucks could be without their No. 1 goalie and top-line forward Todd Bertuzzi, suspended for the playoffs.

With Hedberg starting for Vancouver, he will be facing a former teammate in Flames goalie Miikka Kiprusoff. Both were on the 1999-2000 Kentucky Thoroughblades of the American Hockey League, then the farm team of the San Jose Sharks.

Kiprusoff stopped 23 of 25 shots Sunday in the first playoff game in Calgary since April 23, 1996.

The Flames need a win Tuesday to avoid heading back to Vancouver with a 3-1 series deficit. Calgary, however, is 0-8-2 in its last 10 home games against the Canucks since 5-0 victory on Dec. 29, 2000.

"Of course you want to win, but it's a seven-game series and as a team we're focused on the long-term goal and that's to win four games," Calgary's Andrew Ference said.

Calgary has injury concerns of its own for Game 4.

Defenseman Toni Lydman left Game 3 with an "upper body injury" and didn't return. Center Craig Conroy missed most of the second period after taking a stick to the face, but returned in the third wearing a full visor.

Penalty killing has been a problem for Calgary in this series. Six of Vancouver's eight goals have been scored with the man advantage. The Flames, meanwhile, are 2-for-22 on the power play.

Game 5 is Thursday at Vancouver.

HOW THEY GOT HERE: Canucks - 101 points; 3rd seed. Flames - 94 points; 6th seed.

PLAYOFF TEAM LEADERS: Canucks - Naslund, 2 goals and 5 points, Naslund, Brendan Morrison and Ed Jovanovski, 3 assists; Mattias Ohlund, 11 PIM. Flames - Simon, 2 goals; Jordan Leopold, 3 assists, Matthew Lombardi, Simon and Leopold, 3 points; Ville Nieminen and Simon, 8 PIM.

PLAYOFF SPECIAL TEAMS: Canucks - Power play: 40.0 percent (6 for 15). Penalty killing: 90.9 percent (20 for 22). Flames - Power play: 9.1 percent (2 for 22). Penalty killing: 60.0 percent (9 for 15).

GOALTENDERS: Canucks - Hedberg (1-0, 1.47 GAA); Auld (no appearances). Flames - Kiprusoff (1-2, 2.70); Roman Turek (no appearances).

Associated Press
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