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Ritchie returns to Flames' lineup, scores key goal in 4-3 win over Canucks

After being benched Friday night against Columbus, Ritchie scored the go-ahead goal while taking some punishment as the Flames took over first place in the Northwest Division with a 4-3 victory over the Vancouver Canucks.

Back in the line-up because of a foot injury suffered by Stephane Yelle, Ritchie wasted little time getting the home fans into it drawing a loud ovation from the sell-out crowd of 19,289 after his spirited fight with Alex Burrows five minutes into the game.

"Byron did a good job in the faceoff circle tonight, I thought he did a good job bringing energy in the fight and obviously he scored a huge goal for us. That's what good players do," said Playfair.

Calgary trailed 2-0 after the first period but stormed back with four unanswered goals, two in the second period and two more in the third.

On the go-ahead goal at 8:39 of the third, Jeff Friesen's shot from the wing was stopped by Roberto Luongo but the long rebound caromed right to Mark Giordano at the blue-line and his shot was deflected by Ritchie as the Flames centre was knocked to the ice.

"I just tried to create a screen and Giordano made a great shot and I was able to tip it in," said Ritchie, who scored his eighth of the season.

Kristian Huselius extended his scoring streak to 12 games (8 goals, 10 assists) with a goal at 16:39 and that would be the game-winner as Taylor Pyatt got Vancouver back within a goal at 18:10.

Daymond Langkow and Alex Tanguay also scored for Calgary (29-17-6), which has earned points in each of their last seven games (5-0-2).

The Flames also continued their domination at Pengrowth Saddledome, where over the last three months they have gone 20-2-0.

Daniel Sedin and Henrik Sedin also scored for Vancouver (29-20-4). The Canucks suffered their second regulation loss since Christmas (12-2-3).

The Canucks and Flames entered the night tied atop for the lead in the Northwest with 62 points each. Vancouver now finds itself tied with Minnesota for second spot.

"We had a real poor performance in probably our biggest game of the year, it's inexcusable," said Canucks captain Markus Naslund. "Obviously, they deserved the win. Luongo kept us in there for a long time when maybe we shouldn't have been in there."

Down 2-0 after the first period despite outshooting Vancouver 15-12, Calgary got on the scoreboard at 8:39 capitalizing on a two-man advantage.

With Canucks Trevor Linden and Marc Chouinard penalized, Tanguay curled out front and sent a short pass to Langkow in the slot who one-timed a shot inside the far post.

"That ended up a turning point in the game," said Tanguay. "From there, we really picked up confidence and we knew we were going to get back in this game."

Jarome Iginla picked up his second assist of the night on the tying goal at 13:00 setting up Tanguay nicely on a two-on-one.

"I don't think anybody's too happy right now in this locker room," said Luongo. "We're all disappointed in the outcome of the game and we know we could have played better as a team."

After killing off three penalties in the first 10 minutes, Vancouver jumped in front 1-0 at 13:18 when Henrik Sedin batted a rebound out of the air and past Kiprusoff.

It was another Kiprusoff rebound that led to the Canucks second goal four minutes later. Taylor Pyatt's slapshot was too hard for Kiprusoff to control and Daniel Sedin was right there at the side of the net to jam in his 20th of the season.

Luongo was superb in the Canucks net all night, making 38 saves.

"We got exactly what we deserved," said Canucks coach Alain Vigneault. "We talked before the game about being disciplined; we took eight stick penalties tonight. The team that wanted it the most got the game.

"They had more energy, they competed harder for loose pucks, they competed harder to protect the puck, they were the harder working team tonight and if it hadn't been for Louie it would have been a totally lopsided affair."

Making his 13th straight start in a row, Kiprusoff finished with 26 saves.

Calgary lost defenceman Rhett Warrener to an undisclosed injury on the first shift of the game. Notes: Calgary C Stephane Yelle did not play after being hobbled by a shot off his foot Friday night versus Columbus... Referee Mick McGeough worked his 1000th NHL game. The 49-year-old's NHL officiating career began in 1989... The Flames improve to 6-1-1 in the second game of back-to-back games... RW Eric Godard in the line-up, Calgary has yet to lose in regulation (8-0-2)... Calgary (22-0-0) is one of only two teams that are perfect when leading after two periods. The other is Carolina (18-0-0)... Calgary has a plus-35 goal differential when playing five-on-five while Vancouver is minus-13.



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