Canucks' Luongo keeps Flames at bay
The CalgaryFlames came to Vancouver determined to clinch the Northwest Division title Tuesday night. Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo had other ideas.
Luongo made 21 of his 46 saves in the first period, defenseman Mattias Ohlund scored twice, and the Canucks moved into a tie with Calgary atop the Northwest Division with a 4-1 victory. The Flames could have clinched the division with a win.
"We wanted to finish it off tonight, said Calgary coach Mike Keenan. "Luongo obviously thought differently. Luongo was the difference. We had a number of chances to get involved in the game offensively and he just stymied us. He was putting on a goaltending clinic tonight.
Flames captain Jarome Iginla tied the game 1-1 with 5:16 left in the second period, finally beating Luongo on the 33rd shot. But Ohlund restored the lead 22 seconds later with a shot off a Calgary defenseman - his first goal in 26 games - and added an insurance goal on the power play with 5:09 left.
"We'd rather take two points and play bad than the opposite, but we didn't play great," said Ohlund. "They totally outplayed us and Louie stole the game."
Rick Rypien opened the scoring late in the first period, and Henrik Sedin ended it with 2:32 left as the Canucks snapped a three-game skid to pull even with a Flames team they trailed by 13 points on Jan. 31. Vancouver went 20-5-1 through February and March to pass Calgary, which was battling injuries, but fell behind again after going 0-2-1 in the first three games of April.
Miikka Kiprusoff made 21 saves for the Flames, who moved ahead of Vancouver with a win over Los Angeles on Monday. Calgary still controls its destiny because it has two more wins than the Canucks, the first tiebreaker in the standings. So Vancouver needs at least one more point than Calgary in the final two games of the season.
"If we play like that, we'll win a lot of games," said Iginla.
The Canucks host Los Angeles on Thursday before ending the season in Colorado on Saturday afternoon. The Flames finish with a home-and-home series against Edmonton on Friday and Saturday.
The timing of Calgary's final games could become significant because it fell to 2-10-2 in the second half of back-to-back games with the loss to Vancouver.
Then again, despite arriving early in the morning after a 4-1 home win over the Kings, it was the Flames who controlled things early, outshooting the Canucks 17-3 through the first 10 minutes of the opening period. Luongo kept it scoreless with point-blanks stops on Mike Cammalleri and Todd Bertuzzi in the opening minute, and robbed Dion Phaneuf and Olli Jokinen on an early power play.
"Once I make those saves early I get in a comfort zone and they kept throwing pucks at the net from everywhere and for me personally that s the kind of game I like, said Luongo, who had given up 13 goals in the previous three games.
Luongo made several more highlight-reel stops, none bigger than on Iginla's blast from the slot as the Canucks killed off a 66-second 5-on-3 advantage for the Flames. He got a break when Cammalleri missed an open net on the rebound, and again when Jokinen hit the post and batted that rebound over a wide-open net on another power play midway through the period. Calgary was blanked on six power plays and is now 0-for-37 with the man advantage in the last eight games.
"Our power play needs to take a lot of blame and, also, Luongo was very good," said Iginla. "We threw a lot at him. They weren't just bad shots. We had a lot of good shots and, unfortunately, we didn't get more by him.
Kiprusoff wasn't nearly as busy, but was no less spectacular early on. He slid across to rob Willie Mitchell on a 2-on-1 redirection, and waited out Sedin to got his left toe on a shot from alone at the crease.
Rypien finally beat him off the rush with 2:39 left in the first period, firing a second chance over the shoulder of Kiprusoff. It was his first goal since scoring in the first two games of the season - both against Calgary - before missing 70 games with sports hernia surgery and a personal leave of absence.
"It's been a long time," said Rypien. "Maybe just lucky it's all against Calgary."
Iginla, who shot wide on a third-period breakaway, finally solved Luongo after Jokinen's shot from the slot trickled to him at the side of the net with the goalie flat on his stomach. But Ohlund scored on the next shift.
The Flames, still missing defensemen Robyn Regehr and Cory Sarich and three regular forwards, only dressed 17 skaters - one below the limit - because they are too close to the salary cap to recall any more players from the AHL. ... Calgary D Matt Pelech, who played his third NHL game, is the nephew of first-year Canucks general manager Mike Gillis. ... Canucks LW Taylor Pyatt missed a third straight game after his fiancee, Carly Bragnalo, was killed in a car crash Friday while vacationing with family in Jamaica. Pyatt has been given an indefinite leave of absence and there is no timeline for his return.