CALGARY – Eddie Lack continues to impress as the latest understudy to Vancouver Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo.
Lack made 18 saves for his fifth straight win and second shutout of the season Sunday night as the Vancouver Canucks continued a sensational month of December with a 2-0 victory over the Calgary Flames.
“It was a pretty easy night for me,” said Lack, making his third consecutive start with Luongo (lower body) on injured reserve. “I had to be sharp a couple times but overall, I felt that our D-men boxed them out really good.”
Lack improves to 7-2-0 on the season and moves into third in the league with a 1.74 goals-against average. His .933 save percentage is sixth best.
“The guys are playing awesome in front of me. I can’t really complain about anything. I just want to keep it going,” said Lack.
Vancouver got the only goal it would need in the final minute of the first period on a terrific breakaway pass from Henrik Sedin and an even better finish from the speedy Jannik Hansen.
After Mark Giordano’s shot was blocked, Sedin corralled the puck and spotted Hansen darting up the ice. Looking like a quarterback waiting for his receiver to get open, Sedin paused before hitting him with a perfect pass.
“I saw an opportunity for us to turn the puck over in our end so took a chance that we were going to get it and fortunately enough it ends up on Hank’s tape and he’s able to feather it through,” said Hansen. “It jumped on me and I think that fooled the goalie a little bit too and I maybe caught him a little bit out of position and leaving a little more room than he would have liked to.”
It was Giordano who Hansen got behind before whipping a shot into the top corner on Reto Berra.
“I thought I could have stopped the pass but he made a pretty good pass in the air and landed it right on the guy’s stick, said the Flames captain. “In hindsight, I maybe should have turned around and got back but even if I did that, I don’t know if I would have been able to get back in time.”
Mike Santorelli also scored for Vancouver (23-11-6). Playing for the first time in a week, the Canucks improve to 10-1-1 in its last 12. They are right back in action Monday night when they take on the Philadelphia Flyers at Rogers Arena.
“If you look at the standings, it’s extremely tight,” Hansen said. “If you’re not stringing wins together, you’re not going anywhere. We’ve played a tremendous December and we’re still fourth in our division.”
Calgary (14-19-6) falls to 1-2-0 with two games remaining on a five-game homestand. The Flames next opponent is also Philadelphia, hosting them on New Year’s Eve.
“Goal scoring, that’s the toughest part of this league,” said Flames coach Bob Hartley. “Right now, we have a few guys that are squeezing the sticks.”
Coming off a 2-0 loss to the Edmonton Oilers on Friday, Calgary has been shut out at the Scotiabank Saddledome since before Christmas, a span of 125 minutes and 5 seconds.
“We have to keep going, we have lots of youngsters that are facing adversity right now and we have a few veterans who are facing adversity. The number one priority we have is to stick together,” Hartley said. “We knew that we would have some bumps on the road and right now, we’re there. Coming back from the break, it seems like we can’t buy a goal.”
With some spectacular saves, Berra kept the game 1-0 until 18:44 of the third period when Santorelli converted a two-on-one on Vancouver’s 30th shot of the night.
The Flames first-year Swiss goaltender falls to 5-10-2.
“In the second period, we spent so much time in our zone. Vancouver played like we wanted to play,” said Flames defenceman Chris Butler, the Flames ice-time lead with 24:16. “By the time we got the puck and were skating out of the zone, everybody was dog tired so you have to dump it in and go for a change. It’s tough to get sustained pressure that way.”
Trailing 1-0 after two periods despite being outshot 24-8, the Flames came out flying in the third pouring on early pressure on Lack but couldn’t solve the Swede.
The game got off to a rousing start when rugged Flames fourth liner Brian McGrattan got his arm up high on a heavy hit along the side boards in the Canucks end that caught defenceman Andrew Alberts in the head and flattened him.
While Alberts remained down, McGrattan squared off in a fight with giant Canucks enforcer Tom Sestito.
Alberts did not return.
Notes: Henrik Sedin needed stitches after getting hit in the ear by a puck in warm-up. He played in his 669 consecutive game, which is the second longest active iron man streak and sixth longest in league history… Flames C Markus Granlund, recalled early this morning from Abbotsford (AHL), did not end up playing when Mikael Backlund was ruled good to go after the warm-up. Granlund, 20, has never played an NHL game… Twenty-five of the Flames 39 games have been decided by one goal, which leads the NHL. Five more would have been one-goal games if not for an empty goal.