Ekman-Larsson has two assists in Canucks debut as Vancouver beats Flames

Conor Garland scored the opening goal as the Vancouver Canucks went on to beat the Calgary Flames 4-2.

ABBOTSFORD, B.C. — For Conor Garland, a goal is a goal, even if it comes in a pre-season game.

Every tally brings much-needed confidence heading into the NHL season, he said.

“I’ll take a goal any time, if it’s in the middle of the summer or if it’s in the pre-season or an NHL playoff game,” the Vancouver Canucks winger said Monday after scoring in his team’s 4-2 pre-season win over the Calgary Flames.

“They all feel good and it’s nice to get one. But obviously, when the (regular-season) games start, you better keep scoring.”

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Garland’s goal came early in Monday night’s game after Calgary’s Glenn Gawdin was called for high-sticking 1:41 into the contest.

Stationed at the top of the slot, the Canucks winger sent a shot screaming through heavy traffic and found the back of the net to open the scoring at 2:28.

Defenceman Oliver Ekman-Larsson was credited with an assist.

While Garland and Ekman-Larsson are new to Vancouver, they’re old teammates. The Arizona Coyotes dealt the pair to the Canucks in July in exchange for a first-round pick in the 2021 NHL entry draft.

Ekman-Larsson had two assists Monday, his first-ever game in a Vancouver jersey.

“He looks really good. It’s nice to see how fast he’s playing. He’s moving the puck so well, how physical he is, he looks really engaged,” Garland said. “He looks like the Oliver I know.”

Canucks head coach Travis Green liked Ekman-Larsson’s game, too.

“I really thought he took charge tonight, played with a lot of energy, had a lot of bite in his game, too, which you always like,” he said.

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The Canucks came into Monday’s matchup after opening the pre-season with a 5-3 loss to the Seattle Kraken in Spokane, Wash., on Sunday. The Edmonton Oilers blanked the Flames 4-0 in Calgary the same night.

Vancouver jumped out to a three-goal lead Monday but the Flames battled back with two strikes of their own in the second frame.

Chase Wouters, J.T. Miller and Tanner Pearson also scored for the Canucks, while the Flames got goals from Dillon Dube and Connor Mackey.

Michael DiPietro was solid in net for Vancouver with 25 saves.

The 22-year-old netminder faced a late barrage when the Flames pulled goalie Daniel Vladar in a bid to make a late push.

“I thought (DiPietro) stood tall, especially in the six-on-five. They probably had, I don’t know, seven or eight shots in the last three minutes there with the goalie out,” Green said. “And I thought he looked solid tonight.”

DiPietro spent much of last season on the Canucks’ taxi squad and said it felt good to get back into a full game.

“I think heading into the game, all I was focusing on was having a good start, trying to get my feet and hopefully kind of role from there,” he said.

“It was just really fun to get a full 60 and get back playing a full game.”

Adam Werner stopped 12-of-15 shots for the Flames before being replaced midway through the second period. Vladar had 14 saves in relief.

Pearson gave the Canucks some insurance 13:31 into the third period, picking up a drop pass from Ekman-Larsson and riffling it in past Vladar to make it 4-2.

The Flames pulled the goalie in a bid to make a late comeback but couldn’t finish with the extra attacker.

Mackey cut Calgary’s deficit to 3-2 with less than a minute to go in the second period, sneaking a shot past Di Pietro from the blue line.

The Flames’ first tally of the night came on a two-man advantage earlier in the frame.

Canucks captain Bo Horvat was sent to the box for cross-checking at 10:59 and his teammates steadily worked to kill off the penalty until Ekman-Larsson was sanctioned for the same offence in front of the net. Boos emanated from the crowd as the Flames were given 23 seconds of five-on-three hockey.

Dube scored 11 seconds in with a long bomb through DiPietro’s legs.

The Flames were 1-for-3 on the power play Monday, while the Canucks went 2-for-3 with the man advantage.

A pair of power-play goals helped Vancouver to a 3-0 lead after the first period.

Calgary’s Andrew Mangiapane was called for cross-checking at the Canucks bench 15:18 into the opening frame and the home team wasted little time in capitalizing.

A scramble in front of the Flames’ net saw Horvat blast a shot at Werner and the rebound pop out to Miller, who fired it back in over the past the netminder at 15:34.

Three minutes earlier, Vancouver’s Jonah Gadjovich streaked deep into Calgary territory, out-waited a sprawled out Juuso Valimaki, then dished the puck to Wouters from the goal line. The 21-year-old forward popped a shot in from the low slot to give the Canucks a 2-0 lead.

The Flames are set to host the Seattle Kraken Wednesday. The Canucks get a brief reprieve before heading to Alberta for a rematch with Calgary on Friday.

NOTES: Vancouver moved its American Hockey League affiliate to Abbotsford earlier this year. The team _ known as the Abbotsford Canucks _ is set to play its first game against the Bakersfield Condors on Oct. 16. … Pre-game ceremonies marked the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation which is being marked for the first time on Thursday.

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