VANCOUVER, B.C. – The Vancouver Canucks have started games so well since returning from a marathon road trip that it doesn’t seem to matter how much gas they have left in the tank at the finish.
The Canucks blitzed their visitors in the first period for the second time in as many nights Sunday to score a 3-1 victory over the Calgary Flames.
They poured 20 shots on the Calgary net and forged a 3-0 lead in the first 20 minutes, a shelling that surpassed the 17 first-period shots in Saturday’s 5-1 win over the Ottawa Senators.
The wins were the first home games since Vancouver returned from 14 straight away dates because the 2010 Olympic Games occupied GM Place.
“Both games we had a ton of shots and a ton of chances, more importantly,” said goalie Roberto Luongo who made 26 of his 32 saves in the final 40 minutes.
“Obviously tonight was a huge first period for us where we got a three-goal lead and it carried us pretty much the rest of the way.”
Daniel and Henrik Sedin and Ryan Kesler added to point streaks with first-period goals as Vancouver maintained a five-point Northwest Division lead over the Colorado Avalanche.
Vancouver’s first-period blitz ended goalie Miikka Kiprusoff’s night early and the Canucks managed only eight more shots on Vesa Toskala, with none in the third period.
“I personally felt Kipper had already played one game already,” Flames coach Brent Sutter said. “I just didn’t think it was fair to our goaltender to keep him in there.”
The streaking Canucks are 6-1-1 since the Olympic break while the Flames’ playoff drive hit a speed bump with their first loss after four straight wins.
Defenceman Robyn Regehr denied Luongo his shutout with 8:10 remaining when his point shot found the net with Curtis Glencross screening in front.
“I really don’t have words to explain it right now, because I was shocked to see us play that way in the first period,” Sutter said.
The Flames dropped to 34-25-9 and remained a point out of a Western Conference playoff position.
“This time of year it shouldn’t take much to get ready to play games, especially the situation we’re in,” Sutter said. “Getting ready to play should be the easy part right now.”
Daniel Sedin scored at 1:13 after forcing Kiprusoff to make a sprawling save. Henrik recovered the puck behind the net and his brother beat the scrambling netminder.
The assist was the 416th of Henrik Sedin’s nine-year career and he passed Trevor Linden as the franchise leader in that category.
The goal stretched Daniel Sedin’s points streak to 10 games while Henrik’s reached five.
Kesler doubled the lead when Alex Burrows’ backhand pass found him in the slot for a quick wrist shot for his 20th goal of the season as Vancouver improved to 43-23-3.
Kesler’s points streak reached 13 games, the longest by a Canuck since Todd Bertuzzi’s 12 in January 2003.
Vancouver quickly cashed in on a 1:43 two-man advantage late in the period as Henrik Sedin backhanded his brother’s rebound through a beleaguered Kiprusoff.
“You know you’re up and you know if you play good hockey you’re going to win the game,” Henrik Sedin said of the comfort that comes with a good start.
“It’s pretty tough to come back in this league and if you get a 3-0 lead it’s almost impossible … but we know we have to be better for 60 minutes.”
Daniel Sedin said setting the tone at the opening faceoff has been the key to the Canucks’ recent success and it should be easier to do at home.
“I think at home you tend to come out a little bit harder,” he said. “You forecheck a little bit harder so it’s been good for us lately but we’ve got to keep this going.”
Canuck coach Alain Vigneault said the road trip caught up with his club but Luongo bailed them out with key saves on Rene Borque and Daymond Langkow while forcing Niklas Hagman to shoot wide.
“It was our eighth game in 13 nights and we didn’t have much left in the tank but there was one guy who still had his game,” Vigneault said of his netminder.
Jarome Iginla, who led the Flames with four shots on goal, said the effort was there despite a poor start and nothing to show for five power plays.
“Nobody quit in here,” Iginla said. “It’s too bad we couldn’t get one more on the power play and really make it interesting, but we did do things the right way (after the first period). We got a lot better.”
Notes: Calgary continues its fight for a playoff berth Monday night when they play host to Detroit … Borque played his 300th game … the last time Calgary and Vancouver battled here was a 3-2 Flames shootout win on Jan. 9 when the Northwest Division lead was at stake.