Canucks 5 Flames 1
CALGARY — Mason Raymond’s first career three-goal game wasn’t a thing of beauty, but got the job done for the Vancouver Canucks on Sunday night.
The Canucks winger had a natural hat trick as Vancouver roared back from an early 1-0 deficit to rout the Calgary Flames 5-1.
Raymond put the Canucks ahead 3-1 at 18:50 of the first period but it was his goal just 34 seconds later stunned the sell-out crowd of 19,289.
From the boards at centre ice, Raymond flipped the puck high into the air on a dump in. Flames netminder Miikka Kiprusoff never saw it and had it bounce off his side and in.
“I got it up high and when it was in mid-air, I looked at Kipper and I knew he didn’t see it. I thought to myself, this has a chance,” said Raymond. “I’m still not exactly sure how it went in but I’ll take it.”
After yielding four goals on 13 shots in the opening 20 minutes, Kiprusoff was pulled by Brent Sutter to start the second period.
Raymond completed the scoring at 12:31 of the second against Curtis McElhinney, wiring a one-timer into the open side after a hard cross-ice pass from Alexander Edler.
The big night for the 24-year-old native of nearby Cochrane came in front of numerous friends and family including his parents and grandparents.
“It’s always fun to do it in front of friends and family,” Raymond said. “I grew up watching Calgary so you always remember coming to this rink and doing things here so that’s exciting. This one will be one I’ll remember for sure.”
Raymond is enjoying a breakout season in his third year in the NHL. Earlier in the month, he eclipsed his career high of 11 goals in a season set last year. He now sits second on the club with 17 goals, just one behind Henrik Sedin.
Kyle Wellwood and Sedin also scored for Vancouver (23-16-0), playing the first of a four-game road trip which comes on the heels of a 6-2 homestand. Their seventh win in nine games leapfrogged the Canucks past Calgary (20-12-5) and into seventh place in the Western Conference.
“We haven’t been strong for five, six, or seven games in a row together and we know that it’s important for our club to start doing that,” said Roberto Luongo, who had 29 stops. “Right now, we’ve played three pretty good games in a row and we want to keep it going.”
In contrast to the streaking Canucks, the struggling Flames are headed the other direction.
With just one victory in their last seven (1-4-2), the Flames suddenly find themselves clinging to the eighth and final playoff spot in the West, just one point up on the Detroit Red Wings and Dallas Stars.
“You never want to say that as a team you got outcompeted and outworked and we did tonight,” said Flames captain Jarome Iginla, Calgary’s lone goal scorer with his 20th.
“They came back and got two quick ones but even at 2-1, even 3-1, we can’t let that happen at home in the first period,” Iginla said. “We, as players, it’s not good enough at home, it’s not good enough anywhere. We’re definitely embarrassed by that game.”
The Flames dressing room remained closed for an extended time after the game. Flames head coach Brent Sutter also took a significantly longer time than usual before finally meeting with the media.
“I have a few concerns that are certainly very noticeable and you can’t hide it,” said Sutter.
After a tough home ice loss, Sutter was asked if he was happy to be playing again Monday night with the Flames in Edmonton to battle the Oilers.
“Absolutely. But that being said, there are certainly some things that in the next 24 hours have to change if we want to even have a chance tomorrow night.”
Asked to identify his biggest areas of concerns, Sutter fired back with a stern, “none of your business.”
However, the first-year Flames coach did shed some light on what it wasn’t, and that’s the new system that the players have been learning.
“It’s got absolutely nothing to do with systems, absolutely nothing. It’s other things that we have to deal with and we’re going to. Whether it’s liked or not, it’s going to be dealt with,” Sutter said.
Kiprusoff’s early exit marked just the second time he had been pulled by Sutter. The other time was Nov. 19, when the 33-year-old Finn surrendered six goals over the first two periods.
In 14 starts since that Blackhawks game, Kiprusoff had been Calgary’s best player, going 7-4-3 with a 1.55 goals-against average. The win-loss record might have been better with more offensive support — the Flames have scored just 20 goals in the past 11 games.
“The guard has dropped, the foot has gone off the pedal, and now we’re trying to find our way again,” said Sutter.
“But they know what’s out there because they’ve shown and proven that they can do it.”
Trying to spark the offence, Sutter re-united Craig Conroy with Iginla on Sunday, putting him at centre on the top line that also features Olli Jokinen. Conroy and Iginla were successful linemates years ago, although Conroy has struggled this season without a goal in 35 games.
The newly formed trio combined on the game-opening goal at 7:15 as Conroy beat Ryan Kesler on a face-off and drew the puck back to Jay Bouwmeester, whose slapshot was deflected by Iginla past Luongo on Calgary’s first shot of the game.
However, it was all Vancouver after that as they responded with four unanswered goals to take a three-goal lead to the first intermission.
At 8:31, Sedin had Willie Mitchell’s wide shot carom off the end boards and pop out to him on the other side of the net where he fired his 18th from a sharp angle. Sedin has goals in three straight games and has points in 12 of his last 13 (four goals, 18 assists).
On the go-ahead goal, the puck deflected off Alexandre Burrows driving to the net and then ricocheted off the end boards where Wellwood was right there to pull it back and tuck in his third goal inside the goal post.
“We were pretty excited about that game, about turning our game around and we come out and play like that, that’s the toughest (loss) in my mind to take so far this year,” Iginla said.
McElhinney finished with 15 saves in his 40 minutes of action.