Miller wins Canucks debut, 4-2 over Flames
CALGARY, Alberta (AP) — Great night for the new guys.
Ryan Miller made 23 saves to win his Vancouver debut and the Canucks beat the Calgary Flames 4-2 Wednesday, giving coach Willie Desjardins a victory in his first game at the helm.
“I was a little anxious leading up to these games,” Miller said. “You start somewhere new and want to get off on the right foot.”
Zack Kassian scored for Vancouver to snap a 1-all tie early in the second period, and Radim Vrbata made it a two-goal cushion at 11:07. Vrbata’s goal was initially waived off for a high stick, but the call was changed following a replay review.
“I knew that I had a blade high over the bar, probably, but I knew I hit it with the shaft,” Vrbata said. “I know that they said it was close, but I was pretty sure it was a good goal.”
Alex Burrows also scored and captain Henrik Sedin added an empty-net goal from his rear end for the Canucks, who extended their winning streak against Calgary to eight games in a row.
Paul Byron and Jiri Hudler had the goals for the Flames, who haven’t won their first game of the season since 2009.
The season opener featured two teams attempting to climb out from the bottom of the NHL standings. The Canucks finished 25th and the Flames 27th among the 30 clubs last season.
Both starting goalies signed as free agents on July 1 and made their debuts for their respective teams. Miller faced 25 shots in the win, while Jonas Hiller turned away 29 of 32 in his first game with the Flames.
It was also a successful debut for Desjardins, who won his first regular-season game as Vancouver’s coach. He replaced John Tortorella, fired after one season with the Canucks.
“I was really happy we got everyone involved tonight,” Desjardins said. “We got a lot out of a lot of guys.”
Calgary outhit the Canucks 32-16 and won 61 percent of the faceoffs. But the Flames were scoreless on four power-play chances.
“You don’t score on those, you just make your life miserable, and especially on a home opener with the fans already on their feet and they’re just waiting to light the barn on fire, but we couldn’t,” Flames coach Bob Hartley said. “Not only did we not score, but after this, I felt we lost the momentum for basically the first 40 minutes. We were not very good in our zone — way too many missed assignments.”
Hudler pulled the Flames within a goal at 13:19 of the second period when he fired a drop pass from linemate Sean Monahan past Miller.
Vrbata batted the puck out of the air past Hiller to pad Vancouver’s lead to 3-1. The Canucks signed the Czech forward to a two-year contract in the offseason to play right wing on a line with Henrik and Daniel Sedin. Vrbata had three goals in the preseason.
The Canucks pounced on Mikael Backlund’s giveaway along the offensive boards at 5:16 of the second when Kassian finished a passing play with Brad Richardson and Lyndon Vey.
Byron tied it at 1 on a 2-on-1 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 won 76 percent of the faceoffs in the first period, yet were outshot 13-9 and trailed 1-0 heading into the second.
Burrows redirected Dan Hamuis’ shot from the blue line for a power-play goal at 11:52. The Flames had 63 seconds of a 5-on-3 advantage early in the first period, but couldn’t capitalize.
NOTES: The Flames embark on a six-game road trip starting Thursday in Edmonton. Karri Ramo will start in net. ... The Canucks play at home Saturday against the Oilers. ... Calgary rookie forward Johnny Gaudreau registered one shot on goal in 13:22 of ice time.