Canucks extinguish Flames

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 1:30 PM ET

VANCOUVER -- It's on with the show.

After eight pre-season games the Flames are off to the regular season to defend their 2004 Western Conference crown.

The puck is finally about to drop -- ready or not. Even with last night's performance in their final exhibition tune-up against the Vancouver Canucks, a 4-2 loss captain Jarome Iginla admitted was sub-par.

"We weren't sharp and took too many penalties," he said. "We knew how it was going to be called and we took a lot of hookings and things we haven't taken earlier in the pre-season. That's probably sharpness and we can be better in that area but every time we started to get things going, we'd give them a powerplay."

With a full pre-season to become attuned to how referees will call the obstruction rules, the Flames handed the Canucks 11 powerplays, which led to three of the hosts' goals before the announced gathering of 18,248 at GM Place.

A sign of things to come came early when Matthew Lombardi was flagged for interference only 46 seconds into the tilt.

GM/head coach Darryl Sutter, though not happy with the number of infractions, called it the ongoing learning process.

"I said before it's gonna take a year, not a training camp," he snapped. "The penalties that frustrate you are the ones you take between the bluelines because there's no need to take a penalty between the bluelines.

"I'm sure both sides are going to say a lot of the penalties down low, are they penalties?"

Despite icing a lineup that didn't include Mattias Ohlund, Todd Bertuzzi, Matt Cooke and Ed Jovanovski, the Canucks were more than happy to take advantage of the opportunities handed their way.

Lee Goren's sharp-angled wrister beat Philippe Sauve to give Vancouver the lead after 20 minutes.

The Flames picked up their game after the first intermission, holding an 8-1 edge in shots at one point, and were finally rewarded when Jordan Leopold ripped a slapshot from the point past Alex Auld.

The deadlock didn't last long. This time with Shean Donovan in the box, a horrible line change by the Flames led to a three-man rush finished by a Daniel Sedin goal.

Less than two minutes later, Markus Naslund made it a two-goal lead when he zoomed by Leopold while grabbing a loose puck in the defenceman's feet and then neatly deking Sauve.

Iginla brought his team within one just over a minute into the third period, but Sedin salted it away with his second of the night.

Despite the scoreboard, wins and losses are truly secondary in the pre-season, with preparing vets and evaluating wannabes the main purpose.

News on some Flames youngsters is, at best, up in the air. Sauve, the likely backup goaltender, can't be faulted for all three goals surrendered but the first one wasn't of NHL calibre. Nor did he appear in control of the first half dozen shots he faced en route to making 13 saves before giving way to Brent Krahn for the final period.

Dion Phaneuf also struggled getting caught out of position a few times while Eric Nystrom, the first-rounder from 2002, was probably the best of the young bunch, displaying a physical presence with a solid check on Canucks rookie Luc Bourdon.

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VANCOUVER CANUCKS: 4

CALGARY FLAMES: 2


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