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Flames 4 Canucks 3: Pre-season starts but only Boeser news matters

 Vancouver Canucks goaltender Michael DiPietro (75) and forward Jonah Gadjovich (41) defend against Calgary Flames forward Justin Kirkland (52) during the second period at Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre.
Vancouver Canucks goaltender Michael DiPietro (75) and forward Jonah Gadjovich (41) defend against Calgary Flames forward Justin Kirkland (52) during the second period at Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre. - Anne-Marie Sorvin

There’s something about Austin Czarnik, pre-season hockey and facing the Vancouver Canucks.

The winger scored just six goals last season, but for the second year in a row opened the exhibition schedule with an offensive outburst.

In 2018, he tallied a hat trick against the Canucks. On Monday, he scored twice, leading the Flames to a 4-3 win over the Canucks at the Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre in Victoria.

The Victoria game was one of two on the night for the Pacific Division rivals, as they split their squads and also faced off at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary. The Canucks won the Alberta tilt 3-2 in overtime, despite being heavily outshot by their hosts.

The Flames out-shot the Canucks 38-13 in Calgary, but a pair of late goals from Mitch Eliot and Jake Virtanen evened the contest and Virtanen won the game in overtime.

Cam Talbot, who was signed by the Flames on July 1, had entered the game midway through the second period, relieving counterpart David Rittich, who faced four attempts from Vancouver. Talbot conceded all three goals. Eliot’s and Virtanen’s first were both shots he’d surely like to have back.

In Victoria, the Flames burst out of the gate, outshooting the Canucks 15-8 in the first period (the Flames outshot the Canucks 41-34 overall). Dillon Dube opened the scoring, while Czarnik added a second goal for the visitors on a power play.

Czarnik scored again in the second period to stake the Flames to a three-goal lead.

The Canucks did start to generate some chances as the second period wore on, but struggled to get on top of the Calgary crease, which featured Russian netminder Artyom Zagidulin to start and Tyler Parsons to finish.

The Flames got a fourth goal when Rasmus Anderson floated a point shot towards the net and Zane McIntyre, who replaced starter Mike DiPietro, never picked up the puck before it flew into the net.

Loui Eriksson finally got the Canucks on the board when he picked up a Guillaume Brisebois rebound on top of the crease and flipped a backhander past Parsons. Josh Teves added a second Canucks goal late in the third.

Bo Horvat thrilled the fans by pulling the hosts within one with a hard wrist shot from the top of the slot with the goalie pulled and less than a minute left. The Canucks got a flurry of other chances, but couldn’t find another goal.

“I liked our second half of our game. I talked to our group after the first period, I thought we had a couple young guys that looked a little nervous,” Canucks coach Travis Green said. “And when you’re nervous your feet don’t move as quick as they should, your hands don’t work as well as they should. And I thought we got faster as the game went on.”


Much better for DiPietro

The last time we saw DiPietro in green and blue, he was getting shellacked by the San Jose Sharks.

On Monday night, he saw plenty of rubber and while he’d like Czarnik’s first goal back — the wrister seemed to elude DiPietro’s outstretched glove — the young netminder looked much more solid than that effort last February.

He’s still got a long way to go, but he’ll be heartened that professional hockey doesn’t look foreign to him anymore.

“I think you’ve got to get used to the speed of the shots, the pace of play,” DiPietro said. “Not many rushes are wasted; like in junior, patient play, you know, nominee rushes are wasted like in junior … there seems to be something always generated and that’s something I took from my first game that I played last year and something to continue to take and, you know, to learn from and make sure that … I move efficiently in the net, making sure I don’t really waste any movement and, you know, as I mature here, as I get older and as my game matures, it’s going to benefit (me).”

“He looked good. You know what, he falls into that (young) group. It’s a lot of young guys out there that haven’t played a lot of NHL hockey games. So even though it’s exhibition, still their nerves are high,” Green said. “It’s big for them. And he’s going to feel a lot better the next time he gets in the lineup.”


Rafferty gets PP1 time

“I’m really excited about it,” rookie Brogan Rafferty said. “World class players on the first unit, for coach Green to put me in that position and to trust me a little bit, it’s huge for my confidence.”

The former Quinnipiac blue-liner signed with the Canucks last spring because of the opportunity that the right side of the Canucks’ defence presented. He got into two games to close the season but never had a chance to skate in a practice.

His first game against Nashville started with him looking a little like a deer in the headlights, but he quickly found his feet and by the end of the second game in St. Louis was showing plenty of confidence.

Over the summer he spent a lot of time working with the Canucks’ coaching staff in a special post-season camp, then again at the summer development camp, again at rookie camp last week then this weekend’s main training camp.

“The players here are so good, you pick up a lot from them just watching them … it pushes you that much further to be great every day,” he said.

“Everything’s so crisp and so clean and structured, it’s really cool to see.”

The Canucks’ power play went 0-for-3 on the night, but Rafferty did pick up an assist on Horvat’s goal.

Jordie Benn plays at home

It wasn’t just the first time that Jordie Benn has played in Victoria since 2009 — hat tip to Canucks.com’s Derek Jory and Tyson Giurato for pointing that one out — it was also the first time in years that Benn found himself able to have a family dinner at this time of year.

He visited his parents’ home on Sunday night and his sister and his niece were there as well.

“It’s the first time in a long time where I’ve been at a camp and I got to go home and eat a home cooked meal,” he said. “It’s pretty cool. It’s fun to be here.”


Calgary connection

The split squad the Canucks sent to Calgary was very light on experience, though there was a heavy Calgary feel to it, with just about every Canuck with a Cowtown connection in the lineup.

Calgarian Jay Beagle led the way, along with a trio of former Flames in Sven Baertschi, Oscar Fantenberg and Carter Bancks, plus a former Hitman in Jake Virtanen and a current Hitman in Jett Woo.

Woo, who missed training camp last year because of knee surgery, was excited to both make his Canucks debut and also to play at the rink he’ll call home this coming WHL season.

“Last year not being to participate (in camp) because of the surgery was a bummer,” he said. “I know coming into camp and seeing the schedule and having the chance to play in Calgary, that’s going to be fun.”


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