Canucks 2, Flames 1

CALGARY, Alberta (AP)—When Dan Cloutier limped off the ice near the end of the first period, the Vancouver Canucks had no choice. They had to turn to backup goalie Johan Hedberg.

Hedberg then turned in a solid performance, stopping 19 shots in a 2-1 victory over the Calgary Flames on Sunday night. The win gave the Canucks a 2-1 first-round series lead, with Game 4 set for here on Tuesday night.

Vancouver coach Marc Crawford said Hedberg was able to get mentally prepared to play after the first period.

“I think he knew he was going to be the guy, obviously,” Crawford said, “and that helps, too, because you’re not wondering if the goalie’s coming back in the game or not. He knew he was going to get the ball and he ran with it well.”

Late in the scoreless opening period, Cloutier stopped a shot by Calgary’s Oleg Saprykin. But as the puck rebounded out front, Cloutier appeared to wrench his knee scrambling to reach it.

Cloutier’s condition was termed a “lower body injury” by the team. But the goaltender was helped off the ice and did not return. Third-stringer Alex Auld appeared on the bench early in the second period.

After letting in the one goal, Hedberg, who was dealt to Vancouver from the Pittsburgh Penguins last summer, was unbeatable.

As rookie in 2002, Hedberg started all 18 games for the Penguins and theywent to the Eastern Conference final before losing to New Jersey.

“That run with Pittsburgh has really helped me throughout my career,” said Hedberg. “I draw on that experience all the time. You’ve been there once, you know what it’s about, how long the series are, not to get too high or toolow.”

Calgary defenseman Andrew Ference said his team has plenty of respect for Hedberg.

“We’re not licking our chops,” he said. “He’s a great goalie and we’re just going to have to do the same things: drive the net, shoot the puck lots and just focus more on our team than who’s in their net.”

Matt Cooke’s third-period goal won it.

Cooke, playing on Vancouver’s top line with Markus Naslund and Brendan Morrison since the start of the playoffs, replacing the suspended Todd Bertuzzi, put the Canucks ahead at 1:29 of the third period.

“Anytime you play with guys that skilled, it’s so much fun,” said Cooke.

“I just wanted to drive through and maybe create an opening,” Cooke said of his winning goal off a pass from Morrison. “I just poked it with the toe of my stick and it got ahead of me. I just caught up with it and tried to get iton net as fast as I could.”

Hedberg faced a rough welcome into the game, letting in his second shot just 1:04 into the second period. Calgary’s Chris Simon scored his second goal of the playoffs, converting a goalmouth pass from Jarome Iginla.

But the Canucks, who have not lost in 10 consecutive games at the Calgary Saddledome, were quick to counter a minute later with their sixth power-play goal of the series.

Naslund popped a wide rebound past Flames goalie Miikka Kiprusoff following a hard slap shot by defenseman Ed Jovanovski.

It was Calgary’s first home playoff contest in eight years. And the fans turned up in force. The sellout crowd of 19,289, most of them adorned in Flames red, was deafening throughout the game, encouraged by a new, $1-million powerring installed at the Saddledome in time for the playoffs.

Ference said the Flames are not disappointed by their effort Sunday night.

“Of course you want to win, but it’s a seven-game series and as a team we’re focused on the long-term goal, and that’s to win four games,” he said. “It was a great hockey game out there, it was a close battle and one shift weturned the puck over and they put it in.”

^Notes: Calgary was scoreless in seven power plays, while Vancouver was 1-for-4 with the man advantage. … The last time Calgary played a home playoff game was April 23, 1996 against Chicago. The Flames lost in triple overtime to be swept from the first-round series … Calgary has lost six consecutive postseason overtime games … Calgary center Craig Conroy left Sunday night in the second period, then returned in the third wearing a full visor.

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Three Stars

  Game Winning Goal
M. Cooke M. Cooke
Vancouver Canucks
Scored at 1:29 of 3rd

Goaltending

Goalie Team Shot Save
Dan Cloutier Det 11 11