Canucks edge Flames in shootout to win home opener
Ryan Miller stops all 4 Calgary shooters, Brandon Sutter notches winner
It was one of those sequences where everyone in the building could feel a goal coming.
With the Vancouver Canucks trailing 1-0 late in the third period Saturday, Henrik and Daniel Sedin, along with new linemate Loui Eriksson, played keepaway in the Calgary zone for the majority of a two-minute shift, searching for an equalizer against the weary Flames.
"[The Sedins] have that ability. They're big-game players, and they sense it," said Canucks head coach Willie Desjardins. "Their whole career's been that way.
"They know they have the other team on the ropes and they go after it."
Henrik Sedin finally found an opening when he fed the puck between his legs to Eriksson, whose deflected pass in front was batted home by Daniel Sedin with 3:51 left in regulation before Brandon Sutter eventually capped the night with the only goal of the shootout as Vancouver downed Calgary 2-1.
Sticking with it
"It felt really good at the time," Daniel Sedin said of the shift that saw the Canucks finally break through. "They were tired. They were just standing still. It was nice to see it go in."
Sutter then beat Calgary goalie Chad Johnson through the five-hole on the winner in the fourth round of the shootout after Ryan Miller, who made 25 saves through 65 minutes of action, stopped all four attempts by the Flames at the other end.
"We just stuck with it," said Sutter. "We bounced back well and that shift that Danny, Hank and Loui put in for two minutes was pretty impressive."
Troy Brouwer was credited with the game's first goal in the opening period after Eriksson, who was making his Vancouver debut, put the puck into his own net on a delayed penalty. Johnson made 30 stops in his first start for Calgary (0-2-1).
The Canucks were the last of the NHL's 30 teams to open the regular season, while the Flames played their third game, and second in as many nights, after losing back-to-back contests to Edmonton, including Friday's home opener at Scotiabank Saddledome.
Calgary opened the scoring at 9:14 of the first after Miller went to the Vancouver bench for an extra attacker with Brouwer about to be penalized for holding. Eriksson circled away from the Flames blue line before throwing a pass towards his own zone from near centre in hopes of finding a teammate.
The only problem was the Canucks were in the middle of a line change, and defenceman Erik Gudbranson couldn't get back in time before the puck slid across the goal line in front of a stunned crowd at Rogers Arena.
"I've never seen anything like that," said Brouwer. "It was a bizarre sequence. I have never scored a goal and gone to the box at the same time."
The goal was originally credited to Brett Kulak — which would have been the first of the rookie defenceman's NHL career — but was later given to Brouwer, who now has two on the year.
"I don't think I've ever scored a goal where I didn't touch the puck," said Brouwer.
In another twist, the goal also went into the stat line as an empty netter because Miller was already off the ice.
"It's a weird way to catalogue it," said Miller. "Didn't let one in and don't get the shutout, but to get a win on opening night and help get us started in the right direction, I would have taken anything."
'What is going on here'
For his part, Eriksson said he didn't even realize Miller had left his crease.
"As soon as I put it up there I saw it was an empty net and I was like: 'What is going on here,"' said Eriksson. "It slowly just glided in there. That was a tough one, but we won the game. That's the important thing."
Calgary — which surrendered 12 combined goals in those defeats to the Oilers — were scored on a league-worst 260 times last season, leading the club to fire head coach Bob Hartley and bring in Glen Gulutzan, who was an assistant with Vancouver the last two years.
Brian Elliott was acquired from St. Louis in a draft-day trade to help shore up the goaltending situation, while Johnson was added in free agency.
The Flames and Canucks are both coming off disappointing 2015-16 campaigns that saw them miss the playoffs after making the post-season the previous year.
But while Calgary is expected to rebound, Vancouver has been picked by many experts to finish at the bottom of the standings.
"We stuck with our game plan and didn't panic," said Daniel Sedin. "I thought overall we played a decent game."