CALGARY – Mason Raymond recorded his first career hat trick Sunday night to lead the Vancouver Canucks to a 5-1 victory over the Calgary Flames.
Raymond scored two of Vancouver’s four first-period goals as the Canucks erased an early 1-0 deficit and chased Flames goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff from the game.
Raymond completed his natural hat-trick against Curtis McElhinney at 12:31 of the second period, wiring a one-timer into the open side after a hard cross-ice pass from Alexander Edler.
Raymond, a 24-year-old native of Cochrane, Alta., is enjoying a breakout season in his third year in the NHL. Earlier in the month, he eclipsed his career high for goals in a season of 11 set last year. He now sits second on the club with 17 goals, just one behind Henrik Sedin.
Kyle Wellwood and Sedin also scored for Vancouver (23-16-0), playing the first of a four-game road trip which comes on the heels of a 6-2 homestand. Their seventh win in nine games leapfrogged the Canucks past Calgary (20-12-5) and into seventh place in the Western Conference.
With just one victory in their last seven (1-4-2), the Flames suddenly find themselves clinging to the eighth and final playoff spot in the West, just one point up on the Detroit Red Wings and Dallas Stars.
Jarome Iginla was the lone Flame to solve Canucks netminder Roberto Luongo, scoring his 20th goal of the season. Luongo finished with 29 saves.
Calgary won’t have much time to dwell on the loss – the Flames continue a stretch of four games in five nights Monday against the Edmonton Oilers.
Kiprusoff’s early exit marked just the second time he had been pulled by first-year Flames coach Brent Sutter. The other time was Nov. 19, when the 33-year-old Finn surrendered six goals over the first two periods.
In 14 starts since that Blackhawks game, Kiprusoff had been Calgary’s best player, going 7-4-3 with a 1.55 goals-against average. The win-loss record might have been better with more offensive support – the Flames have scored just 20 goals in the past 11 games.
Trying to spark the offence, Sutter re-united Craig Conroy with Iginla on Sunday, putting him at centre on the top line that also features Olli Jokinen. Conroy and Iginla were successful linemates years ago, although Conroy has struggled this season without a goal in 35 games.
The newly formed trio combined on the game-opening goal at 7:15 as Conroy beat Ryan Kesler on a face-off and drew the puck back to Jay Bouwmeester, whose slapshot was deflected by Iginla past Luongo on Calgary’s first shot of the game.
However, it was all Vancouver after that as they responded with four unanswered goals to take a three-goal lead to the first intermission.
At 8:31, Sedin had Willie Mitchell’s wide shot carom off the end boards and pop out to him on the other side of the net where he fired his 18th from a sharp angle. Sedin has goals in three straight games and has points in 12 of his last 13 (four goals, 18 assists).
On the go-ahead goal, the puck deflected off Alexandre Burrows driving to the net and then ricocheted off the end boards where Wellwood was right there to pull it back and tuck in his third goal inside the goal post.
McElhinney finished with nine saves in his 40 minutes of action.