Vancouver Canucks goalie Thatcher Demko, right, blocks a shot from Calgary Flames’ Mikael Backlund, of Sweden, during preseason NHL hockey action in Calgary, Saturday, Sept. 22, 2018.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Czarnik nets 3 as Flames dump Canucks 5-2

Calgary picks up exhibition win over Vancouver

CALGARY — Austin Czarnik scored three times Saturday night to lead the Calgary Flames to a 5-2 victory over the Vancouver Canucks in pre-season play.

Mikael Backlund and Mark Jankowski, into an empty net, also scored for Calgary. Elias Pettersson and Brandon Sutter scored for the Canucks.

Czarnik is making the most of his opportunity to be a full-time NHLer for the first time at age 25 after being signed in the off-season to a two-year, US$2.5 million deal. He spent three seasons in the Boston Bruins organization before heading to Calgary.

Czarnik signed with Boston in the spring of 2015 after graduating from Miami University of Ohio.

The five-foot-nine right-winger got into 59 games (5 goals, 12 assists) with the Bruins over his three years, but spent most of his time in the American Hockey League with Providence. Last year, he finished third in scoring with 69 points (25 goals, 44 assists) in 64 games.

Czarnik opened the scoring at 6:20 on a power play, neatly completing a tic-tac-toe passing play with Matthew Tkachuk and Backlund.

The Flames’ power play was 29th in the NHL last year, but with a bunch of off-season additions including James Neal, Elias Lindholm, Derek Ryan and Czarnik, the new-look man advantage has looked more dangerous in the early going of the pre-season.

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Tkachuk also had a hand in his second goal, which broke a 1-1 tie late in the first. After gaining the offensive zone, Tkachuk left a drop pass for Czarnik, who fired a perfect shot inside the far post on Thatcher Demko’s glove side.

After Backlund’s short-handed breakaway goal six minutes into the second put the Flames up 3-1, Czarnik capped off his big night just over three minutes later with Tkachuk’s pass deflecting in off his skate.

Sutter’s goal at 9:31 of the third period, the Canucks second power-play goal of the night, got Vancouver back to within two goals.

Demko went the distance for Vancouver, finishing with 17 stops.

Jon Gillies started for Calgary, stopping of 13-of-14 shots. In relief, David Rittich turned aside 14-of-15. Gillies and Rittich are battling for the back-up job behind Mike Smith.

Notes: Fifteen of the 26 players that travelled to Asia for the 2018 China Games were in the Flames line-up… After Elias Lindholm spent both games in China on the top line alongside Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan, James Neal got his first chance in that spot.

Darren Haynes, The Canadian Press

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Vancouver Canucks’ Brock Boeser, right, and Calgary Flames’ Mikael Backlund, of Sweden, chase the puck during preseason NHL hockey action in Calgary, Saturday, Sept. 22, 2018.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

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