Canada gets scare in final pre-tournament game, slips by Swiss in OT
TORONTO — Team Canada nearly stumbled its way into the world junior hockey championship.
Calgary defenceman Mark Giordano scored twice less than 10 minutes apart in the second period on Friday night as the Flames won 4-1 over the Vancouver Canucks.
Down 1-0 after the first period despite carrying the play territorially by a wide margin, the Flames kept coming with Giordano tying it 2:34 into the second period on a power play.
The trailer on an odd-man rush, Mikael Backlund found Giordano open in the slot and he wristed a shot into the top corner on Jacob Markstrom.
Giordano put the Flames ahead for good at 11:15 when he went to the net and had Michael Frolik's rebound go in off him.
Both goals came during a stretch of over 16 minutes where the Canucks went without a shot. The Flames outshot Vancouver 37-14 on the game.
Backlund and Matthew Tkachuk into an empty net also scored for Calgary (18-16-2), which heads into the Christmas break 8-3-0 in its last 11. Backlund added two assists, as did Dougie Hamilton and Frolik.
Nikita Tryamkin with his first of the season had the lone goal for Vancouver (14-18-3). The Canucks limp to the break 2-5-1 in their last eight.
Vancouver was thoroughly dominated in the first period, getting outshot 16-5, yet scored the only goal at 11:35 when Tryamkin's shot hit the skate of Flames forward Kris Versteeg and fluttered high in the air, dropping behind Brian Elliott — who had no idea where it was — and bouncing into the net.
The power-play goal by Giordano, the first of three second period goals for the Flames, was the 14th goal on the man advantage in December after the team scored only eight in the season's first two months.
Ranked 30th at the end of November, the power play was up to 14th entering Friday's game thanks to a month where they've gone 14 for 38
Calgary increased its lead to 3-1 at 18:07 when Backlund knocked in a Hamilton rebound.
Elliott, who was only tested 14 times, wins his second straight after going over seven weeks without a victory.
While not busy the entire night, he did make a couple dandy saves, his best was a blocker off Brandon Sutter on a two-on-none. He improves to 5-9-1.
Markstrom, who made 33 saves, sees his record fall to 7-8-2.
Calgary lost right-winger Troy Brouwer left the game after being hit in what appeared to be the hand on a dump-in by Versteeg late in the first period. He did not return.
Notes: Four of Calgary's five 2011 draft picks were in the game in Vancouver's Sven Baertschi and Markus Granlund the Flames Tyler Wotherspoon and Johnny Gaudreau... Wotherspoon was making his season debut after being recalled from the AHL two weeks ago... Tryamkin's two career goals have both come at the Saddledome.
Darren Haynes, The Canadian Press