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Radim Vrbata scores winner for Vancouver Canucks in 4-2 win over Calgary Flames

10/09/2014 12:59 EDT | Updated 12/08/2014 05:59 EST
CALGARY - Radim Vrbata continued what's been a seamless fit with Vancouver Canucks linemates Henrik and Daniel Sedin into the regular season.

The Czech forward scored the eventual winner for the Canucks in a 4-2 win over the Calgary Flames on Wednesday in the NHL season-opener for both clubs.

The Canucks signed the 33-year-old Vrbata in the off-season with the idea the right-winger would be a finisher for the playmaking Sedins. That theory held in the pre-season when Vrbata scored three times and the Sedins combining for five assists on the three.

Vrbata batted a pass from Daniel out of the air past Calgary goaltender Jonas Hiller in the second period Wednesday. It was initially waived off as a high stick, but he was given the goal after review.

"I'm glad that a goal helped us to get two points," Vrbata said. "I knew that I had a blade high over the bar, probably, but I knew I hit it with the shaft.

"I know that they said it was close but I was pretty sure it was a good goal."

Alex Burrows and Zack Kassian also scored and captain Henrik Sedin added a hard-working empty-netter for the Canucks, who extended their winning streak against Calgary to eight in a row. Henrik was on his behind when he swept the puck into the Flames net.

Paul Byron and Jiri Hudler replied for the Flames, who haven't won their first game of the season since 2009.

The season-opener for both Calgary and Vancouver at Scotiabank Saddledome featured two teams attempting to climb out of the bottom of the league standings. The Canucks finished 25th and the Flames 27th among the 30 teams last season.

Their starting goaltenders signed as free agents on July 1 and made their debuts for their respective teams. Ryan Miller stopped 23 of 25 shots for the win, while Jonas Hiller turned away 29 of 32 in his first game in a Flames jersey.

"I was a little anxious leading up to these games," Miller said. "You start somewhere new and want to get off on the right foot."

Willie Desjardins won his first regular-season game as Vancouver's head coach. He replaced John Tortorella who was sacked after just one season with the Canucks.

"I was really happy we got everyone involved tonight," Desjardins said. "We got a lot out of a lot of guys."

The Flames out-hit the Canucks 32-16 and had the advantage in the face-off circle with 61 per cent won.

But Calgary was scoreless on four power-play chances. The Flames had a minute and three seconds of 5-on-3 early in the first period, but couldn't capitalize on the two-man advantage.

"You don't score on those, you just make your life miserable and especially on a home opener with the fans already on their feet and they're just waiting to light the barn on fire but we couldn't," Flames head coach Bob Hartley said.

"Not only did we not score, but after this, I felt we lost the momentum for basically the first 40 minutes. We were not very good in our zone, way too many missed assignments."

Vrbata's goal put the hosts up 3-1, but Hudler pulled the host Flames within a goal at 13:19 of the second period when he blasted a drop pass from linemate Sean Monahan past Miller.

The Canucks pounced on a Mikael Backlund giveaway along the offensive boards at 5:15 when Kassian finished a passing play from Brad Richardson and Lyndon Vey.

Byron temporarily pulled the Flames even on a two-on-one with Johnny Gaudreau at 4:08. Byron opted to keep the puck and freeze Miller, who was beaten under his left pad.

Burrows re-directed a Dan Hamhuis shot from the blue-line for a power-play goal at 11:52.

The Flames embark on a six-game road trip starting Thursday in Edmonton. The Canucks are at home Saturday to the Oilers.

Notes: Flames goaltender Karri Ramo will start in net in Edmonton . . . Brandon Bollig, Mason Raymond and defencemen Raphael Diaz and Deryk Engellend made their Flames debuts, but Devin Setoguchi was a scratch . . . Nick Bonino, Derek Dorsett, Linden Vey, and defenceman Luca Sbisa played their first games for the Canucks . . . Calgary rookie forward Johnny Gaudreau registered a shot on net in his 13 minutes 22 seconds of ice time.

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