Jovanovski's OT winner lifts Canucks' playoff hopes

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) -- It wasn't the way Ed
Jovanovski drew it up in his head but the Vancouver Canucks were
happy with the final picture.

Jovanovski returned from a 2½ month absence and scored in
overtime to lift the Vancouer Canucks to a 3-2 win over the Calgary
Flames on Saturday night.

"We made it a little bit too close for my liking," said
Jovanovski. "I didn't script it like that, but it feels good to
get back and have that good feeling about yourself."

It was a triumphant return for Jovanovski, who was wrestling
over returning from Feb. 1 abdominal surgery until talking things
over with his doctor just before his afternoon nap. Nine hours
later, Markus Naslund spotted him trailing on the rush and
Jovanovski snapped a quick wrist shot through the legs of Miikka
Kiprusoff to keep the Canucks playoff hopes alive.

"I had a big-time tug of war not knowing if I was going to
play," Jovanovski said. "I had a long discussion with the doctor
who did the surgery and the first words out of his mouth were 'go
for it'. He said your body will be healed and tightness you are
feeling will just be from lack of muscle."

Despite the loss, Calgary clinched a playoff spot when Mark
Giordano and Byron Ritchie scored two minutes apart midway through
the third period to force overtime.

That was enough to give the Flames a point for the seventh
straight game despite playing for the second straight night and
third time in four days.

"In the end character stepped up for us and battled to get a
point," said coach Darryl Sutter, adding the Canucks got an extra
lift from Jovanovski's return.

"Obviously Jovo's a top-10 defenseman in the National Hockey
league and it's not just on ice. It's the whole persona that he
brings. He has an identity, a strong identity and I m sure he's an
important guy in the locker room too."

Jovanovski was actually in the penalty box when Giordano scored,
but made up for it in the extra period as the Canuck moved into an
eighth-place tie with San Jose.

Vancouver only has four games remaining, including a
home-and-home set with the Sharks on Wednesday and Thursday. But
first the Canucks host Anaheim Monday.

"This type of emotional win will hopefully catapult us into the
next game," said coach Marc Crawford.

Brendan Morrison and Mattias Ohlund scored first-period power
play goals for the Canucks, who had several chances to put the game
away in regulation. But they couldn't beat Kiprusoff, who was back
in net one night after winning his franchise-record 40th game of
the season.

Kiprusoff got little help from an early parade to the penalty
box that resulted in five power plays chances for the Canucks in
the first period.

With Jovanovski back on the point, Vancouver wasted little time
converting the first one. Jovanovski's point shot through traffic
was stopped, but the puck squirted out of a scrum in front to
Morrison, who snapped it into an empty net.

Ohlund converted the fifth advantage with 1:01 left in the
period after Calgary defenseman Andrew Ference dove to knock a
loose puck out of the slot, only to send it straight to the Canucks
defenseman, who snapped it high over Kiprusoff.

Both goalies were good and lucky in the second period.

Jarome Iginla hit the post behind Alex Auld a minute in, and the
Canucks keeper stopped Roman Hamrlik on a shorthanded breakaway
coming out the penalty box after the Flames killed off the start of
a short 5-on-3 midway through the period.

At the other end, Kiprusoff made great scramble saves off Daniel
Sedin and Alexandre Burrows in tight, and got a break when Todd
Bertuzzi somehow missed a wide open net from three feet with 2:22
left in the period.

Eric Weinrich hit the post with 2:30 left in the third as
Kiprusoff kept the opposition to three goals or less for the 33rd
straight start.

"Kiprusoff kept them in the game," said Crawford.

Giordano started Calgary's rally with a power play point shot
through a crowd for his first NHL point at 10:06, and Ritchie beat
Auld with a sharp angle backhand shot from just inside the left
faceoff circle at 12:09.

Despite the point, Calgary's gap over Colorado shrunk to six
points in the race to win the Northwest Division -- the Flames first
division title in 12 years -- and claim the third seed in the
Western Conference playoffs.

Game notes
After losing the first four games of the season series to
Calgary, the Canucks won the last four. The Canucks sent D Kevin
Bieksa down to the Manitoba Moose of the American Hockey League to
make room for Jovanovski, who hadn't played since Jan. 24. After
snapping a career-worst 31-game goal drought in Friday's 2-1 win
over Minnesota, Tony Amonte extended his point streak to four games
with an assist on Giordano's goal.