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Visiting Canucks hang on to edge Flames 4-3

Vancouver Canucks defenceman Nikita Zadorov, right, swats away a check from Calgary Flames forward A.J. Greer during first period NHL hockey action in Calgary, Saturday, Dec. 2, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh Vancouver Canucks defenceman Nikita Zadorov, right, swats away a check from Calgary Flames forward A.J. Greer during first period NHL hockey action in Calgary, Saturday, Dec. 2, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
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Two goals in the opening 10 minutes gave Vancouver a lead it wouldn't relinquish on Saturday night.

Ilya Mikheyev, Sam Lafferty and Elias Pettersson each scored once and had an assist as the Canucks withstood a late push from the Calgary Flames to hang on for a 4-3 NHL victory.

“These guys beat us a couple weeks ago. Divisional rivalry, so good win for us," said Quinn Hughes, who also scored and now leads NHL defencemen with nine goals.

Taking advantage of a sluggish start from the home side, Vancouver took a 2-0 lead less than nine minutes into the game.

They made it 1-0 at 2:03 on their first shot when Hughes skated in off the sideboards and from the faceoff dot snapped a shot past Jacob Markstrom on his glove side.

Lafferty doubled the lead just over six minutes later when Filip Hronek's slapshot from the blue line hit Mikheyev in front and caromed right to him at the side of the net.

“I thought that first 10 minutes they dictated the pace, and we should be the one in our home building to dictate the pace in the first 10 minutes,” said Flames defenceman MacKenzie Weegar.

After a blistering hot 12-3-1 start, Vancouver is 4-5-0 in its last nine. They've alternated wins and losses over the past eight games.

“For the most part the guys really played hard tonight and now you've got to put it together again next game,” said Canucks coach Rick Tocchet. “We've got to do the same consistency but a little bit more composure."

Down 3-1 to start the third period thanks to Mikheyev's goal with 28 seconds left in the second, that would prove to be too big of a deficit to overcome for the Flames, who entered the night second in the NHL with five third period comebacks.

Lindholm got Calgary back to within one at 15:39 of the third on his sixth goal, but Pettersson's empty-netter, getting his stick on former Flames Nikita Zadorov's long clearing attempt, restored the two-goal cushion.

With the goalie pulled again and on the power play, Lindholm scored his second with 54 seconds left but that's how it ended. Vancouver remains perfect at 13-0-0 when leading after 40 minutes.

“It seems to be that way right now, be down a lot and come back, but we ran out of luck today,” said Lindholm. “It's a dangerous game to play, we've got to come out better and be better in the first.”

Chipping in a pair of assists for Vancouver (16-8-1) was Hronek, who continues his breakout season. With 25 points (two goals, 23 assists) in 24 games, he's just 14 points off his career high set last season.

Mikael Backlund also scored for Calgary (10-11-3), which lost at home in regulation for the first time in six games. The Flames had been 4-0-1 in their previous five games at the Scotiabank Saddledome.

“I thought we were a little sloppy to start,” said defenceman Rasmus Andersson. “We played a good third period, but we chased the whole third period. They defend well and we chased and managed to get one but not the other one.”

Thatcher Demko made 19 saves for the Canucks to improve to 12-6-0.

At the other end, Markstrom had 19 stops. His record falls to 6-8-2.

Calgary got on the scoreboard at 12:18 of the first when it's slumping power play, which entered the game 1-for-34 in the previous 12 games, came through on its first opportunity with Backlund redirecting a centring pass from Adam Ruzicka.

Flames finished 2-for-5 on the man advantage while the Canucks were 0-for-4.

UNFRIENDLY RETURN

Zadorov, acquired from the Flames on Thursday in exchange for two draft picks, made his Canucks debut.

"They were chirping me,” Zadorov said about his former teammates. “It's fun. It's between us. I love them. They love me. It's a mutual relationship. I had fun playing against them today."

It wasn't a warm welcome though as the defenceman, who had requested a trade, was lustily booed every time he touched the puck in the first period.

"Obviously excited to have him. Kind of a rare player that we haven't really had here and are fortunate to have,” said Hughes. “I'm surprised by the boos but he said that could be a possibility. I thought he played great.“

Zadorov played on a pairing with Tyler Myers.

"It's a new team. I've got to earn my spot on the poker table."

DI GIUSEPPE SITS

With Phil Di Giuseppe out of the lineup for the first time as a healthy scratch, Andrei Kuzmenko moved into his spot alongside Brock Boeser and J.T. Miller. Lafferty was elevated from the fourth line to play with Mikheyev and Pettersson.

UP NEXT

Canucks: Open a five-game homestand against the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday.

Flames: Back in action on Tuesday when the Minnesota Wild visit the Saddledome.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 2, 2023.

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