VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP)—The Vancouver Canucks were tired of hearing how bad their power play was, so they made it click at just the right time.
The Canucks came in with the worst power play in the playoffs at 15.1 percent after converting just four of 53 chances in their final 16 games. But they scored on their first two opportunities and finished 4-for-6.
“You guys were complaining about it so much we figured we’d do something about it,” said Morrison, who added two assists. “We kept it simple. We played with a lot of confidence on the power play, which makes a big difference.”
“Our power play was not going all that well at the end, but now in the playoffs it’s clicking,” said Dan Cloutier, who made the best of his 26 saves while killing off eight of 10 power plays.
Vancouver has won seven straight, dating to the regular season, after winning just once in seven games after star forward Todd Bertuzzi was suspended throughout the playoffs for punching Colorado’s Steve Moore.
That late push lifted the Canucks to the Northwest Division title and the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference.
It’s a big difference from last season, when the Canucks lost the division on the final day of the regular season and were beaten 6-0 by St. Louis in the playoff opener.
“It’s a good win for us,” said captain Markus Naslund, who had three assists. “We wanted to get the first win at home early and not have the kind of stuff we had last year when we lost the first one.”
The Canucks, who will host Game 2 of the best-of-seven series Friday night.
“Some of our players played a very nervous perimeter game and they are top players. They can’t play that game,” Calgary coach Darryl Sutter said.
Miikka Kiprusoff, who set a modern-day NHL record with a 1.69 goals-against average this season, made 17 saves and allowed more than two goals for just the seventh time in 39 games.
“He’s had a great season and that was a goal to try and get traffic in front. We did a good job,” Morrison said.
Vancouver scored following consecutive penalties to Ville Nieminen early in the first period. Kiprusoff stopped Rucinsky on a breakaway 2:26 in, but Rucinsky tipped in Ed Jovanovski’s point shot eight seconds later.
Salo doubled the lead less than three minutes later, one-timing a slap shot past Kiprusoff with Jovanovski and Rucinsky providing a screen in front.
The Flames, whose regular-season power play was one percentage point better than the Canucks’ mark, tied it with a pair of man-advantage goals 28 seconds apart early in the middle period.
Already short-handed, the Canucks were whistled for too many men on the ice. Simon converted the two-man advantage six seconds later after the puck took a funny hop off the glass behind Cloutier.
Cloutier looked to his right, but the puck was on the left side and Simon tapped it in.
Saprykin tied it at 5:06, but Sedin put the Canucks ahead for good at 12:47 with a goal that bounced in off the skate of Calgary defenseman Jordan Leopold.
Ohlund scored with 2:09 left in the second, and Morrison made it 5-2 at 5:26 of the third.
“Things can change quickly in these types of games and we’ve learned that over the past couple of years,” Morrison said.
Oliwa scored on a deflection 50 seconds later, but the Flames failed to record a shot during a lengthy five-on-three power play with six minutes left.
Calgary was 2-for-10 with the extra attacker.
“We all feel in our dressing room that we’re a lot better team than that and we’re going to play a lot better than that,” Flames captain Jarome Iginlasaid. “It’s playoff time.”
Calgary D Toni Lydman played after missing the final 10 games of the regular season due to a concussion. … Iginla was making his first playoff appearance since playing two games as a rookie when Calgary last qualified in 1996. … The last time these teams met in the playoffs was 1994, when the Canucks overcame a 3-1 series deficit in the first round en route to the finals. … Calgary won the previous meeting in 1989 in seven games and went onto win the Stanley Cup.