VANCOUVER — Life in Vancouver has felt a little unnatural for Calgary Flames goalie Jacob Markstrom this week.
After spending seven seasons with the Canucks, for the first time he hit the ice at Rogers Arena as an opponent on Thursday.
“I think before tonight, this is the only building I hadn’t been in the visitor room," Markstrom said. "It’s weird to land and take the bus, staying at a hotel when it’s been home for so long."
The Swedish netminder wasted no time making himself comfortable.
He stopped all but one of the 34 shots the Canucks peppered him with Thursday night, leading the Flames to a 3-1 victory against his former team.
One of Markstrom's best saves of the night came midway through the second period when he robbed Nils Hoglander of a goal. Vancouver's rookie winger sniped a shot from the top of the face-off circle and the goalie snatched the puck out of the air.
“He battled for us all night. He kept us in there at times and he made some big saves," said Calgary's Sean Monahan. "When your goalie’s doing that, it gives you some jump and gives you a real good chance to win games.”
Facing a hot goaltender can get into a forward's head, he added.
“When you’re playing against a goalie like that, sometimes you start overthinking and you try to make an extra pass to get a better look and it starts to get frustrating," he said. "Marky’s a great goalie and I’m really happy he’s on our team.”
Monahan registered a pair of assists on the night, and helped give his side some breathing room early in the third.
The centreman came out of the penalty box to collect the puck in the neutral zone, and dished it to Johnny Gaudreau.
Gaudreau hustled down the ice on a breakaway and popped a shot up past Vancouver's Thatcher Demko glove side to put Calgary up 3-1.
Mark Giordano had a goal and an assist in the win, while Andrew Mangiapane also scored for Calgary (7-5-1).
Despite the final result, the Canucks (6-11-0) came out hard and fast, looking to snap an extended losing skid.
“They came out flying, literally," Markstrom said. "They play such a fast game and in the first period, we didn’t really find our legs at the start, but overall, I thought we kept them to shots from the outside and stuff like that, letting me see the puck.
"They’re a desperate team and they played a great game today. We’re happy we got away with the two points.”
Vancouver's lone goal came 6:31 into the second period.
Elias Pettersson deftly stick handled around Milan Lucic and slid a slick pass up the boards to Brock Boeser, who put a backhanded shot on net.
Markstrom stopped the first buck but Boeser collected his own rebound and shovelled it in behind the goalie's skate to knot the score at 1-1.
The Canucks outshot the Flames 34-26 on Thursday, but ultimately saw their losing streak stretch to six games.
The skid hasn't been easy, Pettersson said.
"It's frustrating. Everyone in our group, everyone in the locker room just wants to win a game and get back at it because we know what we're capable of but like I said it's not going our way right now but we'll figure it out," he said.
Demko stopped 23-of-26 shots for Vancouver.
A couple of unlucky bounces were what made the difference Thursday night, said Canucks coach Travis Green.
"As much as you hate losing our guys are smart enough to know they played a pretty good hockey game," he said.
"They know if we bring that came to the table, you're going to win more than you lose. You're not gonna win every game when you play well, that's just the way the league is, the league is too good. But I'm comfortable our guys know that if they bring that type of effort, good things are gonna happen."
Thursday's game was the first in a four-game set between the Canucks and Flames. The two teams will square off again in Vancouver on Saturday.
NOTES: A short thank video for Markstrom, defenceman Chris Tanev and forward Josh Leivo played on the big screen midway through the first period, eliciting stick taps from the Canucks' bench. The trio played for the Canucks last season before signing with the Flames in free agency and Thursday marked their first game back in Vancouver. ... Both Boeser and Pettersson are riding five-game points streaks, with each registering two goals and three assists. … Vancouver's Justin Bailey left the game early in the second period after being run into the boards hard by Lucic. The winger was hunched over as he headed straight down the tunnel. It was later announced he would not return due to an upper-body injury. … Canucks centre Jay Beagle played in his 600th NHL game.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 11, 2021.
Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press