PLAYOFF SERIES: Western Conference quarterfinals; Canucks lead 1-0.
It took until the playoff opener for Vancouver to finally get back on track with the man advantage.
The third-seeded Canucks look to take a 2-0 lead in their quarterfinal series with the Calgary Flames when the teams meet at GM Place.
Vancouver lost Bertuzzi for the remainder of the regular season and playoffs after he was suspended for punching Colorado’s Steve Moore on March 8.
At that time, the Canucks were converting on 15.6 percent of their power plays, with Bertuzzi scoring eight of the team’s 52 power-play goals. Vancouver struggled after the suspension, and finished the season at 14.9 percent after converting just four of 53 chances in its final 16 games.
In Game 1 of its quarterfinal series with the Flames, however, Vancouver scored on its first two power-play opportunities and finished 4-of-6 en route to a 5-3 win.
“You guys were complaining about it so much we figured we’d do something about it,” said Vancouver center Brendan Morrison, who scored a power-play goal and added two assists. “We kept it simple. We played with a lot of confidence on the power play, which makes a big difference.”
Vancouver has won seven straight dating to the regular season after winning just once in seven games after Bertuzzi’s suspension. That late push lifted the Canucks to the Northwest Division title and the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference.
It’s a big difference from last year, when they lost the division on the final day of the regular season and were beaten 6-0 by the St. Louis Blues in the playoff opener.
“It’s a good win for us,” said Canucks captain Markus Naslund, who had three assists. “We wanted to get the first win at home early and not have the kind of stuff we had last year when we lost the first one.”
Calgary was playing its first playoff game in eight years, and the inexperience showed.
Miikka Kiprusoff, who set a modern-day NHL record with a 1.69 goals-against average this season, made 17 saves and allowed more than two goals for just the seventh time in 39 games.
“Some of our players played a very nervous perimeter game and they are top players. They can’t play that game,” Calgary coach Darryl Sutter said.
“We all feel in our dressing room that we’re a lot better team than that and we’re going to play a lot better than that,” Flames captain Jarome Iginla said. “It’s playoff time.”
The series moves to Calgary for Games 3 and 4 on Sunday and Tuesday.
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Flames - 94 points; 6th seed. Canucks - 101 points; 3rd seed.
PLAYOFF TEAM LEADERS: Flames - Saprykin, Oliwa and Simon, 1 goal; Jordan Leopold, 2 assists and 2 points; Ville Nieminen, 6 PIM. Canucks - Five with 1 goal; Naslund, 3 assists; Naslund and Morrison, 3 points; Marek Malik, 4 PIM.
PLAYOFF SPECIAL TEAMS: Flames - Power play: 20.0 percent (2 for 10). Penalty killing: 33.3 percent (2 for 6). Canucks - Power play: 66.7 percent (4 for 6). Penalty killing: 80.0 percent (8 for 10).
REGULAR SEASON SERIES: Canucks, 3-2-1. The Canucks outscored the Flames 9-2 while going 2-0-1 at Calgary. The Flames won two of three games in Vancouver. Iginla had three goals and one assist in the series, and Morrison had four goals and six points for the Canucks.