Canucks take over top spot in West with 3-2 winVancouver Canucks center Manny Malhotra (27) tries to get a shot past Calgary Flames defenseman Mark Giordano (5) and Calgary Flames goalie Henrik Karlsson (35) during first period NHL hockey action at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, Saturday, March, 31, 2012. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Jonathan Hayward)
VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) Andrew Ebbett had quite a return to the Vancouver Canucks.
Playing his first game after missing 35 with a shattered collarbone, Ebbett scored at 3:58 of overtime and the Vancouver Canucks took over the top spot of the Western Conference with a 3-2 win over the Calgary Flames on Saturday night.
After the goal, the Canucks bench erupted and rushed to congratulate their teammate.
''My face is a little red, almost like a burn on there from all the guys,'' Ebbett said with a laugh. ''It was well worth it after a three-month comeback there.''
The Canucks earned their sixth straight win - all without injured scoring star Daniel Sedin (concussion) - and moved into first place in the Western Conference.
They also gained a share of first place overall in the NHL. In the West, Vancouver moved ahead of the St. Louis Blues, who lost to Columbus.
The Canucks and New York Rangers, who did not play Saturday, are tied for first place overall with 107 points each.
The Flames were eliminated from playoff contention.
''We came in here tonight mathematically still alive, but knowing our chances were very slim,'' Calgary coach Brent Sutter said. ''Our focus was to win the hockey game and, again, we came up short one more time.''
Ebbett deflected in defenseman Sami Salo's shot from in front of the Calgary net.
''Just nice to get another shift in overtime,'' Ebbett said. ''Sami had his head up. It wasn't his hardest shot but it was in the right spot and I just put my stick out there and just got a lucky bounce.''
The winger was playing his first game since he was sidelined by a hit by Dennis Seidenberg in Boston on Jan. 7.
Ebbett joined Vancouver hoping to rejuvenate his career, but he struggled to get into the lineup early in the season and then suffered a fractured foot that kept him out of 17 games. He was just starting to find his niche when he got hurt again in Boston.
''I'm very happy for the young man,'' Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said. ''He's gone through some challenging circumstances this year with a couple injuries. To see him battle to get healthy, and nobody was sure if he'd be able to come back this year, but he found a way to get himself healthy and come into the lineup, and tonight he pushed his way into the lineup minutes and was able to get us a goal in OT.''
Max Lapierre and Marc-Andre Gragnani also scored for Vancouver.
Olli Jokinen and Mike Cammalleri scored for the Flames, who continued their habit of squandering a lead - an early 2-1 advantage in the third period.
''It could have went both ways,'' Calgary winger Alex Tanguay said. ''But in a year like this, it doesn't seem that it's going our way.''
The Canucks went 0 for 2 on the power play and Flames went 1 for 2.
Vancouver goaltender Roberto Luongo returned after he missed a scheduled start Friday because of a stiff neck.
Luongo said the Canucks were aware that St. Louis had lost 5-2 to Columbus and that they could leapfrog the Blues into first place in the West.
''After the second (period) we were aware that they had lost,'' he said. ''Obviously it was a huge period for us coming in. Obviously we wanted to get the win and get first place. We found a way to get it done and it's a nice win for the boys.''
Calgary goaltender Henrik Karlsson made his first start since he suffered a knee injury in Vancouver on Dec. 4. It was only his second appearance since then. He last played while mopping up for Miikka Kiprusoff in one period Feb. 21 against Edmonton.
Vancouver led 1-0 after the first period and the score was tied 1-1 after the second.
Lapierre opened the scoring at 5:08 of the first as he took Henrik Sedin's pass off his skate and jammed it past Karlsson. It was Lapierre's second goal in two games.
''It's a fun time right now, but at the end of the day I know what my role is,'' said Lapierre, who has four points in the past two games. ''It's to play physical and good in my own zone, but I'll take what's going on right now.''
Jokinen tied it at 1-1 on a power play at 5:38 of the second period as he put home a one-timer on a pass from Jarome Iginla during a 3-on-2 rush. Then Cammalleri gave the Flames a 2-1 lead just 51 seconds into the third period as he one-timed a David Moss pass behind Luongo from about 10 feet inside the blue line.
Gragnani tied it at 2-2 at 11:45 of the third as he slapped in a pass from Alex Burrows with Lapierre trying to set a screen in front of the net. The puck appeared to go in off Karlsson.
It was Gragnani's first goal as a Canuck. He was acquired near the close of the Feb. 27 trading deadline as part of the deal that sent Cody Hodgson to the Buffalo Sabres.
''I'm just trying to fit in and I think that's what I did tonight,'' Gragnani said.
Notes: Flames goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff needs two more games played for 600. All but 47 have come with the Flames. Before the Flames acquired him in December 2003, he was a third-stringer with San Jose. ... Vancouver defenseman Kevin Bieksa missed his third straight game due to what the coaching staff calls maintenance days. ... With Ebbett back in the lineup, Dale Weise was a healthy scratch. ... Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault hopes defenseman Keith Ballard, out with a concussion and neck injury since early February, can play a couple of games before the regular season ends.