Markstrom, Tanev shut down former Canucks teammates in Flames home debut

One finished fourth in Vezina voting last season, the other finished fourth in blocked shots.

Calgary hockey fans no doubt figured the team’s most prized west coast signings would help tighten things up defensively for the Flames.

But their Dome debut Saturday night was a little over the top.

Perfect actually.

By night’s end Jacob Markstrom had stopped all 32 shots thrown his way, with Chris Tanev coming a close second with eight blocks in a 3-0 win over — you guessed it — their former team the Vancouver Canucks.

“He’s been doing it for me ever since I got to Vancouver,” said the 30-year-old netminder of Tanev’s selfless defence.

“He’s a great fit here and in the locker room. (Teammates) love him already and they see why I loved him before. I’m lucky to have him here in Calgary.”

Their chemistry was on full display late in the opening period when the duo found themselves in familiar territory while clinging to a one-goal lead.

Down two men for 82 seconds with the vaunted Canucks power play pressing hard, Markstrom and Tanev put on a clinic.

A shot-blocking clinic.

By the end of Tanev’s 2:29 minute shift alongside Mark Giordano the veteran defender had blocked several hard shots while closing enough lanes to allow only two shots through to Markstrom by Brock Boeser.

“It gave us a little momentum three-on-five,” said Markstrom, whose club scored all three goals with the man advantage. “Our special teams were the difference makers today. I thought our killers did a great job blocking shots. When the shots were coming I could see them coming — they kept the lanes clear.”

What wasn’t clear was just how odd it would be to face so many familiar faces for the first time.

“It’s weirder than I thought it would be,” said Markstrom, who ended a lengthy tenure in Vancouver by signing a six-year, $36 million deal with the Flames in October.

“From the warmup I usually look over and get a feel for a team and see the shooters. But I just focused on the puck and what I did. It’s weird because they know me and I know them and we spent so much time together off the ice.”

Markstrom entered the evening well aware of the potency of the Canucks’ top six, which had the team sitting amongst the league’s top five power plays in the league last season.

Blanked on all four power play attempts, the Canucks are now 0-for-11 on the season — a tough pill to swallow for a team that was playing its third game in four nights.

“He played well tonight, I’m not going to say he didn’t,” said Bo Horvat when asked about Markstrom. “He stole games for us in the previous years, so we know how he can be. (But) we’ve got to get in his eyes and create havoc in front of the net and we didn’t do that in front of him tonight.”

They tried, to no avail.

The Flames scored a power play goal in each period, giving the Canucks five power play goals against in their last five periods.

“Special teams were a big factor in the hockey game tonight,” said Flames coach Geoff Ward, whose club scored on three of six power plays. “We’re keeping it simple and getting pucks to the net. For early in the season it’s a good start.

“The three-on-five kill could have been a huge momentum shifter for them but ended up being a good momentum-builder for us. I thought both (Markstrom and Tanev) played exceptionally well tonight. The game was a little bit special for them but what they’ll be talking about is it was a more complete effort for the team.”

Unlike the Flames season opener in Winnipeg where they punctuated an impressive first period with two duds, they followed up a solid opening period Saturday with a competent second period. It was late in that frame when Andrew Mangiapane made a nifty, no-look, behind-the-back pass to a screaming Dillon Dube who beat Braden Holtby with a rocket over his left shoulder.

Matthew Tkachuk banged in a rebound from the doorstep late in the third to complete the scoring on a night that saw Sean Monahan open the festivities with an easy tap-in to complete a tic-tac-toe passing play down low.

The Canucks will get another crack at improving their penalty kill and beating Markstrom Monday night.

News and Notes

• Juuso Valimaki played his first game at the Dome in 606 days due to injuries.

• Canucks forward Tanner Pearson limped to the dressing room late in the first period after being hit in the right ankle by a Nate Schmidt slapper from the point. He was back for the start of the second period.

• The Flames opened the evening by paying tribute to long-time team president Ken King who passed away on March 11. The team also saluted Sgt. Andrew Harnett who lost his life during a traffic stop on New Year’s Eve.

• Jumbotron recognition for the charity work and service of former Flames defenceman Travis Hamonic came midway through the first period, drawing stick taps from several Flames players.

Earlier in the day Hamonic, who opted out of post-season play for family reasons, was asked what changed to make him comfortable to play again: “I don’t really expect everyone to agree or understand my decision. I did what I did as a father and as hard a decision as it was we know it was the right one. If I had to do it all over again in those circumstances I wouldn’t change anything I’ve done. What we know now about the world we live in, and the precautions we can take, the world quite frankly is different now than it was seven, nine months ago. I’m confident in the Canucks’ and the NHL’s ability to keep us safe and healthy.”

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