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.