VANCOUVER — The Calgary Flames were playing with revenge on their minds Saturday night.
On their last trip to Vancouver, the Canucks torched the Flames 7-1. It's a result the visitors didn't forget, said Matthew Tkachuk.
"I thought we pretty much got embarrassed that night and this is our last game of the regular season here in this rink so we had one more crack at it to get them back," the feisty forward said after Calgary handed Vancouver a decisive 5-2 loss on Saturday.
The Flames were the dominant side from the first puck drop and leapt out to a 3-0 lead by the first intermission.
Tkachuk put up a goal and two assists in the victory, while Rasmus Andersson added one of each. Noah Hanifin, Elias Lindholm and Johnny Gaudreau also scored for the Flames (38-16-8).
"I don't know if it's a statement game or not but I know that obviously we talked about what happened last time we were in here and the small picture, we all wanted to start the game really good and that's what we did,." Andersson said. "We just focused on ourselves and we did what we could and we ended up playing a good game."
The Canucks (30-26-7) replied with goals from Matthew Highmore and Brock Boeser.
Dan Vladar made 23 saves for a Flames team that lost 1-0 in overtime to the Buffalo Sabres in Calgary on Friday.
Despite playing their second game in two days, the Flames overpowered the home side early and often, outshooting Vancouver 44-25 to improve to 7-4-1 in the second half of back-to-backs this season.
Calgary's head coach Darryl Sutter changed up his lines Saturday and liked the result.
"We’re a team that has to kill plays. If we’re going to try to make fancy plays and long plays, that don’t work for our team," he said. "It’s one of the reasons we changed lines up. There’s getting to be too many 70-footers and home runs. You’ve got to touch all the bases. Tonight we had more guys doing it."
Thatcher Demko stopped 25-of-29 shots for the Canucks before being replaced by Jaroslav Halak to start the third period. Halak made 14 saves in relief.
Vancouver has now lost four of five, all at home, and the team's faint playoff hopes are slipping away.
Sluggish first periods have repeatedly been an issue across the stretch and head coach Bruce Boudreau isn't sure what needs to be done to remedy the situation.
“We’ve been fighting for our lives for three and a half months and now to all of the sudden make it easy for the opposition, whether it’s Detroit, whoever, whoever’s come out, Washington in the first period, and really taken it to us, that’s self readiness," he said. "I don’t have an answer. I’d love to be sitting here and say I’ve got the answer but I don’t have the answer right now.”
Vancouver got a solid opportunity late in the game when Erik Gudbranson was called for tripping Tyler Motte as he dashed to the Calgary net with less than three minutes left on the game clock.
The Canucks were quick to respond, with Boeser muscling a rebound into the net from inside the crease just eight seconds into the power play.
Boeser's 18th goal of the season cut Vancouver's deficit to 5-2.
The Canucks got on the board 7:37 into the third, with Highmore deflecting in a long bomb from Juho Lammikko to make it 5-1.
Vancouver replaced Demko with Halak to start the third. It was Halak's first appearance since Feb. 28.
“I wanted to save Demmer," Boudreau said of the goalie swap. "The poor bugger’s in there facing breakaway after breakaway. And he doesn’t deserve that. He’s been too good for us.”
Calgary bumped its lead to 5-0 with a power-play goal 6:28 into the final frame after Boeser was called for high-sticking on Gaudreau.
With 30 seconds left in the man advantage, Tkachuk fired a pass to Gaudreau in the opposite faceoff circle and Johnny Hockey blasted a wrist shot in past Halak for his 28th goal of the season.
Both the Flames and the Canucks went 1 for 2 on the power play Saturday.
The Canucks came into the second with renewed energy and outshot the visitors 5-0 across the first three minutes, but the Flames capitalized on their first opportunity of the period.
“Obviously we wanted to come out hard in the second period," said Canucks captain Bo Horvat. "Maybe if those go in it’s a different story but when you’re down 3-0 going into the second, especially against a team like that, it’s hard to come back.”
Tyler Toffoli picked off defenceman Tyler Myers at the blue line and dished the puck to Lindholm from his knees. The centre cruised past a pair of stationary Canucks and put a snap shot past Demko to pad Calgary's lead with his 31st goal of the season.
Calgary took a 3-0 lead into the first intermission thanks to Andersson.
The defenceman fired a shot off the post and in at the 13:51 mark for his 100th NHL point (15 goals and 85 assists).
"It was obviously a great play by (Tkachuk) here and so it's nice to get a goal too, felt like that was long time ago," Andersson said. "So it was nice to get that point."
Ten minutes into the game, the Flames had already established their dominance with a 2-0 lead and had outshot the Canucks 11-4.
Tkachuk stretched the lead 7:46 into the first, sweeping a shot toward the Vancouver net from the hash marks and finding space between Demko and his right post. The goal was Tkachuk's 29th of the season.
Hanifin opened the scoring just over three minutes earlier, collecting a long pass from Calgary's latest addition Calle Jarnkrok, and snapping a wrist shot past Demko stick side.
Jarnkrok, who was traded from the Seattle Kraken to the Flames on Wednesday, notched an assist on the play, marking his first point for Calgary.
“They’re a hell of a team but we made them look pretty good tonight also. They’re one of the best teams in the league top to bottom, no doubt," said Canucks forward J.T. Miller. "But we play the way we do like that, we’re seeing it too often creep into our game where the third period means nothing. Not nothing but when you’re down by four goals, it’s just inexcusable. I’m trying to challenge myself to be better, lead better.”
The Canucks will wrap a seven-game homestand Sunday when they host the Buffalo Sabres. The Flames take on the San Jose Sharks in Calgary on Tuesday.
NOTES: The result marks the first time Vancouver has lost two games in a row in regulation since Jan. 15. … Demko has appeared in 19 straight games for the Canucks, including nine straight starts. … The Flames hold a 2-1-0 edge in the season series with the fourth and final game set for April 23 in Calgary.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 19, 2022.
Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press