Not many teams will complain about non-regulation victories, but even the NHL’s hottest squad seemingly needs to find something to improve.
Before beating Minnesota 5-2 on Thursday, Vancouver’s four previous victories each came in overtime or a shootout. The Canucks had last won in regulation Jan. 21, when they defeated San Jose 4-3.
“It was great to get a regulation game and take some stress off a few people,” said Cory Schneider, who made 22 saves. “Definitely the way we want to play.”
Many teams would love the so-called stress of a 6-0-1 stretch, though Northwest Division-leading Vancouver (34-15-5) has higher standards for itself.
Henrik Sedin scored Thursday despite a sore foot, and his brother, Daniel, notched a goal and an assist.
“After the Boston game (a 4-3 win Jan. 7) we had a lot of ups and downs, mostly downs, but I thought tonight was a step in the right direction,” Henrik Sedin told the team’s official website. “It was our best game by far.”
The “downs” have been few, given the Canucks are 8-2-2 since that contest. They trailed Minnesota by six points for the division lead Dec. 11, though they’ve made a thorough turnaround to build a comfortable lead in the Northwest over the Wild, Calgary and Colorado.
The Flames (25-22-8) finished a 1-0-2 road trip Thursday with a 2-1 overtime loss to Phoenix, although they salvaged a point after Olli Jokinen’s third-period goal. They allowed a power-play goal with less than two minutes left in OT.
“There was a point here to be had, and we gave it away,” coach Brent Sutter said. “We knew this game would be tough, and I’m proud the way the guys battled back to tie it.”
Calgary fell two points back of the Coyotes for the eighth spot in the crowded Western Conference playoff race.
“We just have to keep pushing,” Sutter said. “It’s all right there for whoever wants it.”
Leland Irving made 33 saves in his first start since Jan. 5. His only victory of the season came in a 3-1 win at Vancouver on Dec. 23 in the most recent meeting.
The Canucks had gone 10-0-2 in the previous 12 matchups, winning 5-1 on both Nov. 1 and Dec. 4.
The Flames have dropped five straight at home to Vancouver while being outscored 24-9. Their last home victory in the series was a 5-3 win Oct. 16, 2009, with the help of Miikka Kiprusoff’s 26 saves.
Kiprusoff - 4-2-2 with a 1.71 goals-against average in his last eight starts - likely will be back in net Saturday. He’s struggled against the Canucks, though, going 2-8-0 with a 4.90 GAA in his last 10 starts against them, including 0-4-0 with a 6.73 GAA at home in that stretch.
Henrik Sedin played in his 553rd consecutive game Thursday, which is the second-longest active streak in the league to Flames defenseman Jay Bouwmeester’s 559 straight.