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The Flames got off to a hot start, then nearly got burned.

Calgary built a 3-0 lead midway through the opening period and manged to hold on for a 5-3 victory despite being badly outshot the rest of the way by the Vancouver Canucks in Thursday's regular-season opener at the Saddledome.

It was the first of six scheduled meetings between the division rivals, considered by many to be co-favourites in the Northwest. Vancouver took the title by two points last season when Calgary faded down the stretch.

The Flames' victory marked a successful debut for free-agent catch Jay Bouwmeester and new head coach Brent Sutter.

Bouwmeester, signed to a five-year, $33-million US contract to fortify a shaky blue-line, logged a game-high 29:10 of ice time and finished with a plus-2 rating.

"At the end of the day teams are close in this league and a win's a win," Bouwmeester said. "It's all good."

Taking advantage of Vancouver's early penalty trouble, Mark Giordano and Rene Bourque scored power-play goals and Adam Pardy added an even-strength marker to stake the retro-clad Flames to a three-goal advantage 11:52 into the game.

"We took penalties right off the bat, 200 feet from our net that were not the kind of penalties you want to take and they made us pay for it," said Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault.

But as the calls evened out, the Canucks battled back, cutting their deficit to 4-3 when Alex Burrows squeezed a rebound past Miikaa Kiprusoff just 41 seconds into the third period.

The Canucks continued to pour it on, outshooting Calgary by a whopping 35-16 margin over the final two frames, including 21-7 in the third. But Vancouver couldn't get the equalizer by Kiprusoff, who finished with 39 saves.

"We had some chances and we were right there to tie it up at the end, we had a few chances that could have gone in," said Burrows.

After the Flames killed off a tripping call on Daymond Langkow with 6:21 left, Dion Phaneuf iced the game with a minute to go by blasting home an empty netter from just outside the Canucks' blue-line.

"Down the stretch Kipper made some really good saves, and we had a huge kill late," Giordano told CBC's Hockey Night in Canada.

Kevin Bieksa and Mikael Samuelsson — lured from Detroit as a free agent over the summer — notched power-play goals in the second period for Vancouver and Roberto Luongo stopped 18 shots.

Brandon Prust scored in the second period for the Flames, who visit Edmonton on Saturday night (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 10 p.m. ET).