VANCOUVER – Criticized at times this season for indifferent play and a lack of a production, Mikael Samuelsson is making headlines for all the right reasons these days.
The Swedish sniper continued his red-hot streak on Saturday, scoring twice in a 2:40 span midway through the second period to lead the Vancouver Canucks to a 4-2 victory over the surging Calgary Flames.
Samuelsson has 14 points, including seven goals, during his past eight games. In the previous 14 games he had one assist.
“I would lie if I said that I don’t worry about (scoring),” Samuelsson said. “I’m not only here to score goals, but everybody likes to score goals. If it doesn’t go in for you it’s a little bit frustrating, but what are you going to do? You’ve got to stick with it.”
Samuelsson was quick to point out that he had help on each of his markers.
His first tally came midway through the second period with the Canucks trailing 2-1 and on their heels.
He took a feed from Mason Raymond in the slot, spun and whipped a wrist shot past a screened Miikka Kiprusoff.
Samuelsson struck again on a power play 2:40 later, slapping the puck through Kiprusoff’s legs with Daniel Sedin providing the distraction in front.
“You’ve got to understand it’s not only about goal scoring,” said Samuelsson, who has 300 points in 595 career games. “What’s even more important is getting in front, finishing hits, whatever it is.”
Alex Burrows also scored twice, one of them into an empty net, and Raymond added two assists for the Canucks (36-11-9), who maintained their lead atop the NHL standings with their seventh victory in eight games.
Roberto Luongo made 24 saves to improve to 16-0-5 in his past 21 games.
Tim Jackman and Curtis Glencross replied for Calgary (28-22-8), which suffered its first regulation loss in 11 games and dropped to ninth place in the Western Conference, one point behind the Minnesota Wild.
The Flames, playing their second game in as many nights, made a charge in the third period on the strength of three consecutive power plays. Rene Bourque hit the post on a man advantage, while Luongo stoned Olli Jokinen with a blocker save with six minutes remaining and Matt Stajan on a 2-on-1 with 3:48 to go.
Vancouver has killed 36 straight penalties.
“Special team wise, that was the difference in the game,” said Flames captain Jarome Iginla. “We had our chances to tie it up in the third. Guys played hard. From our point of view, if we stay with that game and that work ethic, we will be all right.”
The Canucks were buoyed by the return of Sami Salo on their suddenly depleted back end, which is without Dan Hamhuis (concussion), Keith Ballard (knee) and Alex Edler (lower back) for an extended period.
Salo, who suffered a torn Achilles during a floor hockey game in the off-season, was given a loud cheer when his name was announced in the starting lineup. He played 16:34 in a pairing with Christian Ehrhoff and had an even plus-minus rating.
Salo also logged time on the second power-play unit and took an interference penalty in the third period.
“It’s been a lot of hard work, and right now it feels really good,” Salo said. “It’s been paid off.”
Vancouver’s defence was exposed a couple of times.
Jackman was left alone in the slot and beat Luongo for his third goal in three games to make it 1-1 2:11 into the second period.
Brendan Morrison outworked Andrew Alberts two minutes later, centring the puck to Glencross who beat Luongo low to the blocker side to give Calgary a 2-1 lead. Glencross has goals in four straight games.
“We had our usual five-minute breakdown in the second period, and then were pretty solid the rest of the way,” Luongo said.
The Canucks led 1-0 after the first period thanks to Burrows’s first special teams goal of the season.
The diminutive forward parked himself at the side of the net on the power play and swatted Raymond’s pass into the open net to extend his points streak to nine games (eight goals, three assists), the longest active streak in the league.
“When the bounces weren’t coming I just had to stick with it,” said Burrows. “As long as I keep going in front of the net, the puck is going to come. I just have to bear down.”
NOTES: Manny Malhotra had two assists for Vancouver, snapping a 20-game pointless streak. … As a tribute to the one-year anniversary of the 2010 Olympic Games, the Canucks held a pre-game ceremony involving Olympians Cheryl Bernard, Becky Kellar, Denny Morrison, Ashleigh McIvor and Vanoc CEO John Furlong, among others. … Right winger Victor Oreskovich made his Canucks debut, playing on the fourth line. … Vancouver leads the season series versus Calgary 3-0-1. … The Canucks have not lost consecutive games in regulation since Nov. 20-21.