Calgary Flame Mikael Backlund grabs Vancouver Canuck Raffi Torres by the head during the Canucks’ 4-2 win in Vancouver

Vrbata scores winner as Flames open season with loss to Canucks

Radim Vrbata scored the eventual winner for the Vancouver Canucks in a 4-2 win over the Calgary Flames on Wednesday. Vrbata’s goal at 11:07 of the second period was initially waived off as a high-stick, but he was given the goal after review.

CALGARY — Radim Vrbata scored the eventual winner for the Vancouver Canucks in a 4-2 win over the Calgary Flames on Wednesday.

Vrbata’s goal at 11:07 of the second period was initially waived off as a high-stick, but he was given the goal after review.

Alex Burrows and Zack Kassian also scored and captain Henrik Sedin added an empty-netter for the Canucks, who extended their winning streak against Calgary to eight in a row.

Paul Byron and Jiri Hudler replied for the Flames.

The season-opener for both Calgary and Vancouver at Scotiabank Saddledome featured two teams attempting to climb out of the bottom of the league standings. The Canucks finished 25th and the Flames 27th among the 30 teams last season.

Their starting goaltenders signed as free agents on July 1 and made their debuts for their respective teams. Ryan Miller stopped 23 of 25 shots for the win, while Jonas Hiller turned away 30 of 33 in his first game in a Flames jersey.

Willie Desjardins won his first regular-season game as Vancouver’s head coach. He replaced John Tortorella who was sacked after just one season with the Canucks.

Hudler pulled the host Flames within a goal at 13:19 of the second period when he blasted a drop pass from linemate Sean Monahan past Miller.

Vrbata batted the puck out of the air past Hiller to pad the visitors’ lead to 3-1 at 11:07. The Canucks signed the Czech forward to a two-year contract in the off-season to play the right wing on a line with Henrik and Daniel Sedin. Vrbata had three goals in the pre-season.

The Canucks pounced on a Mikael Backlund giveaway along the offensive boards at 5:15 when Kassian finished a passing play from Brad Richardson and Lyndon Vey.

Byron temporarily pulled the Flames even on a two-on-one with Johnny Gaudreau at 4:08. Byron opted to keep the puck and freeze Miller, who was beaten under his left pad.

The Flames outhit Vancouver 12-7 and dominated the face-off circle with 76 per cent won in the first period, yet were outshot 13-9 and trailed 1-0 heading into the second.

Burrows re-directed a Dan Hamuis shot from the blue-line for a power-play goal at 11:52. The Flames had a minute and three seconds of 5-on-3 early in the first period, but couldn’t capitalize on the two-man advantage.

The Flames embark on a six-game road trip starting Thursday in Edmonton. The Canucks are at home Saturday to the Oilers.

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