Jonas Hiller makes 34 saves as Calgary Flames down Canucks
VANCOUVER – The Calgary Flames are hoping Saturday night is a sign of things to come.
Jonas Hiller made 34 saves and Michael Frolik, Mikael Backlund and Sam Bennett each had a goal and an assist as Calgary downed the Vancouver Canucks 4-1.
The Flames made it to the second round of last year’s playoffs, but find themselves near the bottom of the Western Conference standings, eight points back of Anaheim for third in the Pacific Division with 31 games left on their schedule.
“We need to play every game like it’s a Game 7,” said Frolik. “It’s going to be like that for the rest of the season. We need that mindset.”
Sean Monahan also scored and T.J. Brodie added two assists as Calgary (23-25-3) rebounded from a 2-1 home loss to Columbus a night earlier while snapping a 1-4-0 slide.
“It was one of those games we really needed,” said Hiller. “I thought we played pretty decent last night, didn’t get a win. In the position we’re at, every single point’s really important.”
Emerson Etem replied for Vancouver (20-20-12), which got 26 stops from Ryan Miller. The Canucks have dropped four straight (0-2-2) and sit five points back of Anaheim and just three up on Calgary.
“It’s frustrating and we’ve got to start turning the corner and use this as motivation,” said Miller. “We can’t hang our heads and say ‘Oh well it happened again.’
“We’ve got to start digging ourselves out. No on else can do it but us, so start digging.”
The Flames beat the Canucks in a tight six-game series in the first round of last year’s playoffs thanks in large part to Vancouver’s inability to bury its opportunities. That was the story again on Saturday.
“The points are slipping away,” said Canucks captain Henrik Sedin, whose team has scored three goals over its last three games. “I see enough chances for us to score more goals, but there have been a few too many games we have come up with one (goal) and that’s not enough.”
After a sleepy first period, Frolik finished off a nice passing play with Backlund and Brodie on a 3-on-2 rush for his ninth of the season 6:25 into the second to give the Flames a 1-0 lead.
Vancouver started to come to life later from there, but Hiller — who lost the starting job to Karri Ramo this season — stopped Etem on a wraparound before Henrik Sedin fired just wide from a sharp angle on the power play.
“Hills was outstanding,” said Flames head coach Bob Hartley. “We got the lead, but they kept coming.”
Dan Hamhuis had another chance moments after the man advantage expired, and Hiller stoned Sven Baertschi on the rebound.
Hamhuis returned to the Vancouver lineup after missing 21 games with facial fractures. The veteran defenceman, who wore a modified cage against Calgary, took a slapshot to the mouth in a scary incident on Dec. 9 and had his jaw wired shut until early January.
After the Flames had a goal waved off because of a hand pass eight minutes into the third, Monahan scored his 16th of the season at 15:07 on a one-timer from the slot.
The Canucks lost 2-1 to Columbus in a shootout on Thursday and pulled Miller for an extra attacker, but Backlund scored his sixth into an empty net at 17:45 to make it 3-0.
Etem, with his first of the season, got a consolation goal at 18:26, but Vancouver fell to 1-3-2 over its last six after Bennett scored another empty netter, his 14th, with 35.9 seconds left on the clock.
“We’re a proud team,” said Flames head coach Bob Hartley. “We have so many great veterans, the kids are pushing hard … and let’s face it, any team in our situation (has) to go on a big winning streak.
“It’s not winning one, losing one. We know what’s waiting for us. We have to get going.”
Notes: The Canucks have just one regulation victory in their last 11 games. … Vancouver defenceman Yannick Weber cleared waivers and was assigned to the AHL’s Utica Comets earlier Saturday. Weber joins wingers Chris Higgins and Brandon Prust as veterans the Canucks have demoted to the minors in recent weeks in favour of younger players. … Vancouver visits Colorado on Tuesday, while Calgary hosts Toronto.
© 2016 The Canadian Press