VANCOUVER, B.C. – The Calgary Flames played right into Roberto Luongo’s hands on Tuesday night.
They fired a 47-shot barrage at a goalie who thrives on a heavy workload. He stopped all but one of them in a 4-1 Canucks win Tuesday night. Calgary outshot Vancouver 21-9 in the first period, with Luongo coming across his crease to foil Michael Cammalleri, taking a Todd Bertuzzi drive off his arm, getting a toe on an Olli Jokinen rebound attempt and a glove on a Dion Phaneuf drive through traffic.
“They just kept throwing pucks at the net from everywhere and for me, personally, those are the games that I like,” Luongo said after his busiest night of the season.
The win allowed Vancouver to tie Calgary for first in the Northwest Division but the Flames remain in the driver’s seat for the third seed in the Western Conference and home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
If both teams win their last two contests, Calgary will take the Northwest because of more victories.
Defenceman Willie Mitchell, who gave Calgary a two-man advantage for one minute six seconds when he fired the puck over the glass during a penalty kill, was especially appreciative of his goalie’s virtuoso performance.
“He made huge stops at key times and it was a big part of our success tonight,” said Mitchell, who hobbled off the ice after blocking a shot only to get a stick in the face when he returned.
One of Luongo’s best stops came with Mitchell in the penalty box when he got a glove on a puck coming through traffic.
“He was fantastic and that’s what you need this time of year,” said Mitchell. “He enjoys the challenge, he enjoys the big game.” Luongo was sharpest as the Canucks killed six penalties and the Flames ran their power-play drought to 37 consecutive man-advantage opportunities.
“Our power play needs to take a lot of blame and, also, Luongo was very good,” said Jarome Iginla, who tied the game at one in the second period.
“We threw a lot at him. They weren’t just bad shots. We had a lot of good chances and, unfortunately, we didn’t get more by him”.
Iginla said the Flames were looking to clinch the division title.
“We worked hard for this position,” he said. “But in our last five or six games, we’ve been doing a lot of things that we want to do and getting in the right habits and haven’t fully gotten the results.
“We feel that is going to turn.”
Vancouver snapped a three-game losing streak and improved to 43-27-10. Calgary, which dropped to 45-29-6, has lost five of its last eight games.
Calgary coach Mike Keenan agreed Luongo was the difference.
“We had a number of chances to get involved in the game offensively – and he just stymied us. They had a goaltending clinic tonight.
“The work ethic was there. The determination was there. We were just up against a goaltender that really denied us the opportunity to be successful.”
Defenceman Mattias Ohlund, snapped a 25-game scoring slump with the winning and insurance goals. Both came on point shots with traffic in front of Calgary goalie Miikka Kiprusoff.
Ohlund answered 22 seconds later after Iginla tied it.
Rick Rypien with his third goal of the season – all against Calgary – opened the scoring and Henrik Sedin completed it.
“Goals have been tough to come by this year,” said Ohlund who took over the career scoring lead for Canuck defencemen this year.
NOTES: It was the most shots Luongo had faced since he made 39 saves Nov. 19 in a 6-3 win over the New York Rangers … Calgary played one skater short of a full lineup … defencemen Cory Sarich and Robyn Regehr were among the seven Flames sitting out with injuries … the Canucks conclude their schedule against Los Angeles here on Thursday and Saturday in Colorado … Calgary’s last two games are Friday at Edmonton and Saturday at home against the Oilers … Sami Salo played his 400th game in a Vancouver uniform.