Canucks play well enough to defeat Flames and win seventh consecutive game

VANCOUVER – It was a win that left the Vancouver Canucks nervous.

After buildling an early lead Wednesday night, the Canucks relied on goaltender Roberto Luongo’s 43-save effort to defeat the Calgary Flames 3-1.

Vancouver extended its winning streak to seven games, but several players weren’t happy with the team’s performance.

“We have to be careful now,” said Daniel Sedin, who scored his team-leading 22nd goal. “I think we’re starting to slip.

“I don’t think we played a good enough game. We need to get better.”

Vancouver, which sits atop the NHL standings with 57 points, took advantage of some early chances a little luck to lead 2-0 after the first period. The few things the Canucks did right covered up what was wrong with their game.

The Flames outshot Vancouver 44-21, including 14-5 in the second period. The Canucks were inconsistent, had defensive breakdowns and sputtered offensively at times.

“I don’t think we had our best game by any measure,” said Luongo. “We were outshot 2-1 by the Flames.

“There are a couple of areas that we could be better at. We can address those issues while we are winning, not when things are going bad.”

Luongo saw his shutout bid erased when Tim Jackman scored Calgary’s goal with just 11 seconds left in the third. The Vancouver goalie was named the game’s first star but didn’t take the traditional twirl on the ice to acknowledge the crowd.

“I’m a competitor and obviously I want to stop them all,” said Luongo as he pounded the pedals on an exercise bike in the training room. “I was a little disappointed that went in at the end.”

Defenceman Kevin Bieksa scored one goal and assisted on another for Vancouver (26-8-5).

Sedin scored the 10,000th goal in the Canucks’ 40-year history, while Ryan Kesler collected his 20th of the season. Alex Burrows had two assists.

The Canucks are 16-1-2 in their last 19 games. Vancouver’s last loss in regulation was Dec. 5 against St. Louis.

Wednesday marked the third time in four games Vancouver has been outshot and it’s a trend that has Sedin concerned.

“Right now we are probably focusing a little too much on the defensive side of the game,” he said. “We’re not putting enough pressure on teams.

“We’re playing a few good teams coming up. We need to get a lot better. A lot of teams have too many good players to give up 44 shots.”

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Calgary lost it’s second consecutive game after winning four in a row.

The Flames peppered Luongo, but had trouble controlling the puck or sustaining much pressure.

“We did a lot of good things but we have to find a way to generate more around the crease,” said Calgary defenceman Mark Giordano.

“We have to do a little bit more, shoot for sticks, maybe get a couple of deflections.”

Kesler scored the game’s first goal with just 70 seconds gone and many in the sellout crowd of 18,860 still looking for their seats. Left alone in front, he took a pass from Mason Raymond and scored on the game’s first shot.

Bieksa made it 2-0 at 16:12 with his third goal in six games when he fired a shot from just inside the blue-line that deflected off a Flame and past Miikka Kiprusoff.

Sedin made it 3-0 midway in the second when he deflected a Bieksa shot past Kiprusoff, who was playing without his stick.

Calgary coach Brent Sutter wasn’t happy with the play of his goalie.

“I wasn’t very happy with their last two goals,” he said. “The last two can’t go in the net on us.”

Luongo faced plenty of shots but most came from long range. When Calgary did get a chance, he was there to make the save.

With Vancouver leading 1-0 in the first, Luongo made a good stop on Olli Jokinen and then jumped on the rebound before Jarome Iginla could pounce.

There were a few tense moments early when Luongo was left flat on the ice after Canucks defenceman Keith Ballard drove Calgary’s David Moss into the Vancouver goaltender. It took several minutes before Luongo regained his feet.

Early in the third, Luongo stuck out his left pad to stop Iginla’s low drive from the slot.

Notes: Daniel Sedin has scored the first goal in a game eight times this season. … The Canucks will induct former centre Thomas Gradin into the team’s Ring of Honour on Jan. 24. … Former Canuck Brendan Morrison returned to Vancouver for the first time in a Flames’ jersey. …Vancouver plays Edmonton on Friday, then Detroit on Saturday.