Canucks 6, Flyers 2

The score alone, which is just as embarrasing as it appears, is not what’s noteworthy. It is a bad loss, to start an important road trip, to one of the top clubs in the Western Conference.

What is of note, is how long it’s been since the Flyers have been on the wrong side of the ledger in a game at Vancouver.

Anybody know where they were on January 17, 1989? Show of hands…no? Not surprised. That’s over two decades of success in the NHL’s Western-most Canadian franchise. I think most of us were snuggled all tight in our beds, with dreams (or nightmares) of long division whizzing through our heads.

On that night, Dan Hodgson and Petri Skriko scored in the third period to break a 3-3 deadlock and give Vancouver a victory in what was then a rare non-holiday road swing for the Flyers.

On a Tuesday, back here in the 21st century, Roberto Luongo stopped 35-of-37 shots and Ryan Kesler finished a post short of a hat trick as Vancouver handed Philadelphia a rare 6-2 drubbing at Rogers Arena.

Despite a 22-shot attack in the opening 20 minutes that saw Brian Boucher turn aside 21, the Canucks extended a 1-0 lead to 3-0 less than three minutes into the second on scores from Kesler and Daniel Sedin and maintained that momentum for the rest of the night.

Henrik Sedin contributed three assists, Christian Ehrhoff added two helpers to get Vancouver within one point of idle Detroit for the top spot in the Western Conference.

Though Danny Briere lit the lamp with less than 3 1/2 minutes played in the middle period, it was the lone purposeful output for the Flyers, who had gone 10-0-4 in British Columbia since that last setback.

Boucher was pulled after allowing four goals on 28 shots in 25-plus minutes of action, Sergei Bobrovsky got the call from there and gave up two goals on 21 chances the rest of the way.

Philadelphia slipped three points behind Pittsburgh for the Atlantic Division after the Pens’ 6-3 win over Atlanta, and fell into a tie for second in the East with the Capitals after their 3-0 decision over Montreal.

Even more painful than the end result, and the fact that it came eight days since a five-goal shutout loss at home to Florida, is that this game matches the Canucks’ largest margin of victory at home against the Orange and Black since they entered the league in 1970.

Kesler notched his second goal of the contest at the 5:21 mark of the second, signaling the end of Boucher’s night along with securing the idea that it was going to be one of those nights for the beleaguered visitors.

Once coveted by the Flyers several years ago, the native of suburban Detroit parked himself in front of the crease and managed to deflect Henrik’s drive between his own legs and under the crossbar.

Jannik Hansen upped the margin to 5-1 less than one minute into the final period, then at 7:47, Kesler roared in and beat a gambling Bobrovsky with a clean shot that happened to hit the right post; Jeff Tambellini followed up and slid the rebound into an open net for a 6-1 contest.

Manny Malhotra’s own-goal with 6:46 left in regulation during a Philadelphia power play was credited to Jeff Carter but Luongo shut the door on the few quality chances the rest of the way.

What was clear from this road-trip opener is that Chris Pronger’s steadying presence will be sorely missed, and that an evenly-shifted deep batch of defensemen still won’t be able to plug all the leaks, especially against the swifter and more offensively-open clubs on the schedule.

Judging from the shot total, 49-37 in favor of the home team, it was an old-fashioned never-know-what’ll-happen-next West Coast shootout from the 1980s. That’s something great to watch from a fan’s standpoint, but will drive the entire coaching staff crazy. Also…The Flyers used to win the majority of those games even without winning the shots-on-goal battle.

But time moves ahead with two games in Southern California on Thursday in LA and Friday in Anaheim.

Notes: Despite the loss, the Flyers are still 31-11-12 all-time in Vancouver, and 14-4-4 since Mike Keenan became head coach in 1984…The Canucks’ greatest margin of victory is four, last achieved in a 4-0 decision on January 27, 1984 that saw Richard Brodeur snag the shutout…It was Vancouver’s first victory in their current home building, originally named GM Place, in nine attempts over the Flyers…Briere snapped a five-game goal drought…This was the second time in three games that Henrik has posted three assists…Daniel recorded his sixth multi-point effort in December…Kesler matched a season-high with three points, the fourth time in 2010′s final month he has done so.