VANCOUVER – Alain Vigneault holds many franchise coaching records for the Vancouver Canucks and he added another to his collection Saturday night when he surpassed Marc Crawford for most regular-season games behind the bench at 530.
The one he enjoys the most, however, is wins. And who wouldn’t? Vigneault has 308 of those, the latest coming when his skaters took out the reeling Calgary Flames 5-2 before another sold-out house at Rogers Arena.
“The wins are definitely the most important thing,” Vigneault said. “I want wins and we got a win tonight. They say never critique a win but tonight our best player was our goaltender. He made some unreal saves. Calgary came to play and they came to play really hard but Schneids (Cory Schneider) shut the door and we were able to jump on a few of their mistakes.”
The Flames, who played and lost Friday night in San Jose, outshot the Canucks 15-8 in the first period, 14-4 in the third and 38-22 on the night. They forced turnovers and won puck battles but they trailed throughout after Canuck defenceman Dan Hamhuis scored 34 seconds into the first period.
The victory was the Canucks’ eighth in their last 10 outings and enabled them to move four points ahead of the idle Minnesota Wild atop the Northwest Division. The Wild, who hold a game in hand, are in Columbus on Sunday. The Canucks next play Monday at home versus the Phoenix Coyotes.
Schneider, who making his 10th staight start, suggested several times heading into the game that the bottom-feeding Flames might be a dangerous opponent. He was proven correct.
“They were ready,” said Schneider, now 14-7-3 on the season. “That team has a lot of pride and a lot of skill still. They have some good forwards up front and some defencemen who can jump in the rush and sometimes when you’re playing loose, you’re very aggressive offensively. They threw a lot at the net but that’s why you have a goalie. That’s why you pay a goalie to stop pucks. Sometimes it might be 20 shots and sometimes it might be 40 but either way, your job doesn’t change.”
The Canucks received eight points from the Sedin twins and Alex Burrows with Henrik picking up career assists No. 600 and 601 in the second period. Asking jokingly if he remembered every one, he replied: “A lot of them were to Danny and Burr.”
Added Vigneault: “I mean, he’s a great passer and, without a doubt, he and his brother have something really good going and Burr complements them. Henrik is our captain, he’s a great player and I’m really happy for him.”
Saturday’s nationally televised game had a rousing start with a first-shift goal, seven shots and two fights by the 2:30 mark. Hamhuis completed a text-book 2-on-1 with Burrows after Flame defenceman Mark Giordano was caught up ice and the bouts featured Zack Kassian going with Tim Jackman, followed by heavyweights Tom Sestito and Brian McGrattan.
Canuck fourth-liner Dale Weise, back in the lineup after missing six games with a separated shoulder, bumped Vancouver’s lead to 2-0 by the 6:57 mark as he deflected home a Jason Garrison point blast, set up by Max Lapierre’s lovely cross ice saucer feed.
Calgary defenceman Dennis Wideman countered at 13:49 of the first as he had free passage down the right wing, faked a slapper on Schneider and then wristed on through his seven-hole (under the arm) to make 2-1 after 20 minutes.
Burrows, against the run of the play, upped the Canucks lead to 3-1 at the 7:24 mark of the middle period as he poked home a loose puck paST Flames netminder Miikka Kiprusoff. The goal was set up by Daniel Sedin taking the puck hard to the net on a jam play.
The Canuck power play, which entered the game a lowly 28th in the league, had an interesting second period. Its first man advantage lasted six seconds as Daniel Sedin took a hooking penalty on Matt Stajan after losing the puck at the offensive blueline. The second one lasted only four seconds but this time it resulted in a goal as Henrik won the faceoff back to Daniel, who went cross ice to Alex Edler, who went 5-hole on the Kipper with Jannik Hansen screening in front.
Alex Tanguay netted the second Flames goal midway through the third period as he slipped on a nifty backhand through Schneider’s wickets after sneaking in behind Garrison. Henrik added a shorthanded empty netter with 11 seconds left to complete the scoring.
ICE CHIPS: West Vancouver’s Max Reinhart, 21, made his NHL debut with the Flames on Saturday after being called up earlier in the day from the Abbotsford Heat. Reinhart took the spot of Curtis Glencross, who was injured Friday night in San Jose. Max finished with three shots on goal but was minus-2… Mason Raymond returned to the Canuck lineup after missing two games with a sore shoulder…Steve Pinizzotto and Andrew Alberts were Canuck healthy scratches… Flames tough guy Brian McGrattan left the game in the second period with a shoulder injury.