Irving gets 1st NHL win as Flames top Canucks 3-1Vancouver Canucks defenseman Dan Hamhuis (2) gets put into the boards by Calgary Flames right wing Lee Stempniak (22) as linesman Lonnie Cameron (74) looks on during the third period of an NHL hockey game in Vancouver, British Columbia, Friday, Dec, 23, 2011. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Jonathan Hayward)
VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) Leland Irving earned his first NHL win by robbing last year's scoring champion with a game-saving stop.
His brilliant late save on Daniel Sedin was one of the 29 he made to help the Calgary Flames beat the Vancouver Canucks 3-1 on Friday night.
''It feels like it's sinking in already,'' said Irving, all smiles while answering reporters' questions. ''It was pretty exciting to come into the room and have the excitement of all my teammates cheering and being so happy for me.''
Irving preserved the win with a diving save off Sedin with one minute left to play before Olli Jokinen scored an insurance goal into an empty net.
''The first shot came through traffic and off my pad right to him,'' Irving said. ''I just pushed as hard as I could to get over and I was able to get my arm on it. It was big.''
Curtis Glencross, Mikael Backlund and Olli Jokinen, with an empty-netter in the final minute, each scored to help Calgary win its third straight. Irving was making only his second NHL start after an earlier call-up this month from Abbotsford of the AHL.
''He was very poised,'' Flames coach Brent Sutter said. ''A couple saves he made in the last two-and-a-half, three minutes were obviously huge. He was very much under control.''
Dan Hamhuis scored for the Canucks, who lost for only the fourth time in 16 games.
The clubs had combined for 12 goals in their two previous meetings this season, but both goalies kept it scoreless through the first 40 minutes.
The game got off to an ornery start as Vancouver's Kevin Bieksa fought Calgary's Tom Kostopoulos just 3 seconds after the opening face-off. Kostopoulos suffered a cut near his left eye and went to the dressing room but eventually returned.
The Flames outshot the Canucks 13-6 in the first period but could not beat Roberto Luongo, who foiled Paul Byron on a breakaway, and stopped Jokinen and Glencross on back-to-back shots.
Hamhuis pulled Vancouver within a goal at 16:59 as he clanked in a wrist shot off the post before Jokinen's empty-netter. The Canucks outshot the Flames 17-7 in the third.
''It's something else seeing a goalie like Roberto Luongo stand on his head at the other end,'' Irving said. ''These are some really cool memories that I will never forget.''
In the second period, Luongo stopped Lee Stempniak on a breakaway after Vancouver's fourth line had kept the puck in the Calgary zone for a long stretch and was caught on a line change.
Glencross finally opened the scoring 2:36 into the third period as he dashed into the slot and one-timed Jarome Iginla's pass from the corner. Iginla won a battle for the puck with Hamhuis and then slid the puck behind Bieksa as he tried to block the pass.
Irving was forced to make several tough saves through most of the third as the Canucks picked up the pace. Backlund put the Flames ahead 2-0 with 5:52 to go after scooping up a blocked puck and beating Luongo before he could get set.
Calgary outshot the Canucks 31-30, despite Vancouver's late push.
''We were all there,'' Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said. ''We all saw it. We were just terrible. There's no other way to put it. I'm shocked. I expected a lot more.''
Notes: Calgary played without high-scoring winger Alex Tanguay, who missed his second game with an undisclosed upper-body injury. ... Brent Sutter coached his 200th game with the Flames. ... Vancouver D Keith Ballard missed his third straight game with back spasms. Flames winger Rene Bourque returned to Calgary's lineup after he was suspended two games by the NHL for leaving his feet when delivering a hit on Chicago D Brent Seabrook.