Moose loose in Calgary

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 3:23 PM ET


 CALGARY -- Anybody know where to get 17,000 foam moose antlers by Thursday?

 The moose is loose in the Stanley Cup playoffs again.

 Johan Hedberg -- the former Manitoba Moose netminder who had fans wearing moose antlers in the playoffs in Pittsburgh during 2001 -- is a prime time Stanley Cup player again.

 The Vancouver Canucks are starting to look like an off-Broadway show. But on with this show they go ...

 The part of Todd Bertuzzi is being played by Matt Cooke. And the part of Dan Cloutier is now being played by Hedberg.

 The unlikely pair parted the Sea Of Red, or as it is known locally, the 'C' Of Red, in the first home playoff game here since April 23, 1996.

 The Vancouver Canucks won Game 3 here last night 2-1 on Cooke's third-period winner replacing Bertuzzi on the No. 1 line with Hedberg between the pipes replacing an injured Cloutier.

 There were even those in the Vancouver populated parts of the press box who figured this might be more of a positive than negative. It certainly looks like they're not likely to have the much maligned Cloutier to kick around in the playoffs for a while.

 When Cloutier went down, it looked as if it would make Sweden instant favourites in the World Hockey Championships. There are seven Swedes on the Canucks including captain Markus Naslund, the Sedin twins and Mattias Ohlund.

 But the Swedish back-up Hedberg said, "Whoa."

 "This is a big chance for me," he said.

 "It's a big challenge and big challenges bring me up to the top of my game.

 "This is what you live for."

 He said he wasn't nervous for the final 19 seconds of the first period, but very much was returning for the second.

 "I was more nervous coming out for a full period," he said.

 He said he reached back and made use of his previous playoff appearance to win this one.

 "I think it helps. I know how the playoffs are."

 Playing in front of a full house of 19,289 -- the first time in a dozen years all the seats from the Olympic Saddledome days have been sold -- the Flames couldn't ride the crowd to victory.

 It was an amazing scene in Calgary all weekend, a scene which built and built and built until there was a din in the building an hour before game time.

 TAILGATE PARTY

 Fans turned Easter Sunday into a tailgate party, beer tent type of occasion before trooping into the building past a three-story 'C' Of Red banner draped from the top of a rescue ladder on a fire truck parked in front of the place.

 The fans, who drowned out the final few bars of O Canada, were quickly judged to have scored a unanimous decision over Vancouver fans from Game 1 and 2 but falling short of creating the same scene as you've witnessed at Edmonton playoff games in recent years.

 Maybe they simply cheered themselves out. By the 15-minute mark of the first period it was quieter in the building than it was an hour before game time. Maybe they were simply waiting for something to happen.

 It almost did. Twice.

 Craig Conroy hit two posts two minutes apart in the final few minutes of the first period.

 But the real happening involved Cloutier.

 Twenty-nine seconds remained when Cloutier looked awkward handling an Oleg Saprykin shot. He wasn't touched by a Flame. It looked very much like he pulled something on the play.

 "Lower body injury," was the extent of the pressbox injury report from the Canucks.

 Cloutier left the rink for the hospital on crutches.

 Already playing without suspended Todd Bertuzzi, losing Cloutier offered another excuse for the Canucks to grab.

 That was one projected storyline.

 The other was the chance for Johan "Moose" Hedberg, the goalie who had all those Pittsburgh people becoming mooseheads in the Penguins surprise Stanley Cup run in 2001, to write another post-season story.

 A minute and four seconds into the second period, he'd given up a goal to Chris Simon. The Canucks came back with a power play goal from Markus Naslund in quick response.

 It was Cooke, who moved up to join Naslund and Brendan Morrison on the Bertuzzi line, who fired the winner early in the third period.

 "Hedberg made some key saves," said Naslund.

 FAILING POWER PLAY

 The Flames went into the game with a nine-game home winless streak against the Canucks and lost this one, as much as anything, because of a power play which has now failed to fire in 17 straight tries.

 It was the Flames night to bask in the playoff spotlight. But the Canucks and their "moose" stole the show.


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