Deep-sixed in Vancouver

STEVE MACFARLANE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 3:19 PM ET

VANCOUVER -- Scoring was supposed to be the Vancouver Canucks' problem this season.

Last night, it was the Calgary Flames who couldn't seem to find a way to get pucks through the blue paint.

Couldn't stop them, either.

Thanks to equal parts strong goaltending by Roberto Luongo, misfirings by the Flames and some horrific defensive breakdowns by the visitors, the Canucks claimed first blood in what will be an important season series with a 6-0 victory in both teams' NHL opener at GM Place.

"We weren't very good," said Flames captain Jarome Iginla. "We didn't respond. They outcompeted us tonight.

"We weren't as disciplined as we should have been later. At the same time, they were better than us in the second and third."

Not helping matters on the defensive side of things was the absence of alternate captain Robyn Regehr, who left the west coast before game time after receiving word his wife Kristina was about to give birth to their first child back in Calgary.

He caught the first plane back home, and while rookie Adam Pardy filled in admirably beside Cory Sarich, the Flames could have used their best defensive defenceman in a physical battle against their Northwest Division rival.

Lapses in the opening couple of minutes of the second period blew the gates open for the Canucks, who took a 3-0 stranglehold at 1:57 when Alex Burrows scored his first of the season on a massive rebound courtesy of Ryan Kesler's shot from the right side.

Uncovered, Burrows quickly swatted the puck over Miikka Kiprusoff.

Just 23 seconds into the middle frame, the Canucks took a two-goal lead on Steve Bernier's first of the year.

The latest right-winger to benefit from time beside the Sedin twins, he one-timed a perfect offering from Henrik.

Henrik Sedin opened the scoring himself late in the first on a dangerous rush down the left side.

Flames defenceman Mark Giordano slid to take away brother Daniel's opportunity, but couldn't defend the ensuing pass from Daniel to Henrik, who was left alone at the top of the crease for an easy goal when Craig Conroy overskated his man in pursuit.

The Flames had plenty of opportunities to grab the lead in the opening 20 minutes, though.

Pressing the Canucks deep while enjoying a two-man advantage, the Flames kept coming up short in front of Luongo.

David Moss fanned on a great setup, and Rene Bourque was continually misfiring from in close.

Teasing their fans with chances, you knew things might be tough early on when during 4-on-4 action Jarome Iginla didn't see a pass coming his way in the high slot from Conroy, who started the night on the top line between his captain and Todd Bertuzzi.

"We didn't let up," said Luongo.

"We kept going after them the whole game.

"We saw they started getting frustrated and we didn't try to get involved in that stuff."

Things got worse from there, and after Burrows potted his second of the night in the third period, the refs had their hands full trying to keep things in control with the knowledge these teams would meet again tomorrow night.

Daymond Langkow traded blows with Luongo after a whistle.

Andre Roy did his best to find a dancing partner, and the hostilities were ramped up throughout the third period.

Besides his goal, Bernier became a home-town hero when he came to Henrik Sedin's aid and went toe-to-toe in a fight with Dion Phaneuf in the third period.

The sellout crowd of 18,630 chanted "Bernier, Bernier."

"It was a big hit on one of the Sedins," shrugged Bernier, who Vancouver obtained in a trade from Buffalo this summer.

"I didn't realize it was him (Phaneuf) at first.

The rematch should be a doozy.


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