CALGARY – Calgary goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff made 39 saves as the Flames opened their NHL season with a 5-3 win over the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday.
Rene Bourque, Brandon Prust and defencemen Mark Giordano and Adam Pardy struck for the Flames and Dion Phaneuf scored the empty-netter in front of a sellout of 19,289 at the Pengrowth Saddledome.
The win snapped a six-game losing streak for the Flames in NHL season-openers.
Kevin Bieksa, Alex Burrows, and Mikael Samuelsson replied for Vancouver, who fought back from a 3-0 deficit after the first period and is expected to rival Calgary for the Northwest Division title this season. Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo had 19 saves in the loss.
It was the first regular-season game for the Flames under new coach Brent Sutter and with defenceman Jay Bouwmeester in the lineup. Bouwmeester, signed to a US$33-million, five-year contract during the summer, had already logged over 21 minutes after two periods.
Vancouver caught fire after Calgary’s fourth goal as the Canucks outshot the hosts 28-8 after that.
Burrows pulled the visitors to within a goal less than a minute into the third period. Vancouver scored a pair of power-play goals in the second and trailed 4-2 after 40 minutes.
Calgary scored two power-play goals within eight minutes of the opening faceoff and another even-strength goal had the home team in control after the first period.
Kiprusoff robbed Henrik Sedin twice in the third period and the second time a sprawling stop with his outstretched stick. Just seconds after a spinning like a top to deny Sedin to open the period, Burrows tucked a rebound under the Finnish netminder :41 seconds in.
Samuelsson redirected an Alexander Edler pass around Kiprusoff at 18:10 of the second period with Flames defenceman Robyn Regehr serving a holding penalty.
The fourth line of Prust, Fred Sjostrom and Eric Nystrom combined on Calgary’s fourth goal at 9:34. Prust dragged the puck out of the corner and scored on Luongo with a wrap-around goal that was the second his career.
Bieksa’s blast from the point deflected off the skate of Calgary’s Sjostrom for a power-play goal at 4:02.
Phaneuf’s open-ice toppling of Vancouver’s Daniel Sedin in the final minute of the first period, prompted a melee between all players on the ice at the buzzer.
Pardy padded Calgary’s lead 11:52 of the first. Craig Conroy won the faceoff and sent the puck back to Pardy, who scored on a rising, off-speed shot over Luongo’s shoulder.
With Vancouver’s Henrik Sedin in the penalty box for roughing, Giordano sent the puck down low along the boards to Nigel Dawes behind Vancouver’s net. The Winnipeg native flipped the puck out to Bourque in the slot and he beat Luongo glove side at 7:56.
Giordano took two steps out from the side boards and beat Luongo with a wrist shot from the top of the faceoff circle at 5:50.
The Flames celebrated the start of their 30th year in Calgary by wearing retro jerseys from their inaugural 1980-81 campaign. The franchise was based in Atlanta eight seasons prior to moving to Alberta.
Calgary’s Bouwmeester, Phaneuf, Cory Sarich and Regehr are among the best in the league as a top-four unit of defencemen, but the Flames were without Sarich for the opener because of a nagging foot injury.
Notes: The Flames and Canucks will square off five more times and conclude the regular season against each other on April 10, 2010 . . . Bouwmeester extended the NHL’s current streak for consecutive games played to 343 games . . . Calgary enforcer Brian McGrattan remained out of the line (shoulder) and is expected to play his first game Oct. 8 versus Edmonton. . . Pavol Demitra (shoulder), defenceman Mathieu Schneider (shoulder), forward Jannik Hansen (broken fingers) were Vancouver’s scratches . . . Calgary centre Olli Jokinen played his 800th career game Thursday . . . Former Flames defenceman Rhett Warrener has joined the team’s scouting staff . . . Vancouver dropped to 21-15-3 in season openers, while Calgary improved to 12-15-10.