Flames battle back to down Canucks, 2-1, in playoff opener

 

 
 
 
 
Canucks goalie Eddie Lack (31) sits on the ice after being scored on by Calgary Flames defenseman Kris Russell (4) during the third period of NHL playoff action in Vancouver, B.C. Wednesday, April 15, 2015.
 
 

Canucks goalie Eddie Lack (31) sits on the ice after being scored on by Calgary Flames defenseman Kris Russell (4) during the third period of NHL playoff action in Vancouver, B.C. Wednesday, April 15, 2015.

Photograph by: Jonathan Hayward, THE CANADIAN PRESS

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VANCOUVER — The Calgary Flames looked like they had been there before. Unfortunately, so did the Vancouver Canucks.

After slightly outplaying the Flames for most of the game, the Canucks surrendered two goals in the final 12 minutes to lose their National Hockey League playoff-opener 2-1 to Calgary at Rogers Arena.

All resilience and youthful nerves, the Flames made it to the Stanley Cup tournament because of their ability to escalate their play in the final period of regulation time. At 10-20-4 this season when trailing after 40 minutes, the Flames were second in the NHL in third-period points and third in victories. Ninety-nine of their 237 goals, 42 per cent, were scored in the third period.

So when they were down 1-0 late Wednesday to the Canucks, with Calgary goalie Jonas Hiller forced to make big saves to keep his team in it, there was a familiar feeling for a Flames team experiencing playoff hockey for the first time since 2009.

But there was familiarity for the Canucks, too. Not the good kind.

It was Vancouver’s seventh straight playoff loss at home since Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final in 2011. It’s the third time in three playoff appearances since then that the Canucks dropped Game 1 at Rogers Arena. The other two times it happened, things did not end well: a 4-0 sweep by the San Jose Sharks two years ago and a 4-1 elimination by the Los Angeles Kings in 2012.

The Flames don’t look as strong as those teams. But maybe the Canucks aren’t as strong as they used to be, either.

They’ve played themselves into another hole and the pressure on them to win, already significant as the home team, will be extraordinary in Game 2 here Friday.

The Flames? Well, they’ll feel like they have all season. Nothing to lose, playing with house money.

“If we score one more, I think the game is in the bag,” Canuck winger Jannik Hansen, who left Flames’ defenceman Kris Russell open at the point on the winning goal, said of getting stuck at 1-0. “So it is a little frustrating, but it is the first game.

“We didn’t expect this to be over in four. Rookies, veterans, whatever you want to call them, they’re good hockey players. It’s what we expected. They’re a good team. I thought we were better than them in the third, to be honest. They were better than us in the second, but we were up 1-0. I thought we were better than them in the third and they won the period 2-0.”

After a shift of prolonged pressure in the Canucks’ zone, Russell fired through traffic and past Vancouver goalie Eddie Lack with 29.6 seconds remaining.

David Jones’ top-corner shot from the hashmarks had tied it at 7:59 of the third period, a few seconds after Canuck defenceman Yannick Weber and winger Radim Vrbata conspired to turn over the puck inside the Vancouver blueline.

Before and after the tying goal, Hiller made strong, close-range saves against Daniel Sedin and Chris Higgins.

But Calgary could have won it sooner, too, as Lack was forced to stop Johnny Goudreau on a late 2-on-1 while Sam Bennett missed the Vancouver goal on another outnumbered rush.

“We gave them a few chances in the third, which were our mistakes, and we can’t do that,” Sedin said. “I thought we played well for 50 minutes, and even at the end, too. But it’s just those few mistakes.

“We would have liked to score some more. But if we’re up 1-0, we should be able to get away with a win. That’s the bottom line. I thought we played a pretty good game actually. But those last 10 minutes, we didn’t do a good enough job back-checking or getting back.”

Lack finished with 28 saves, one fewer than Hiller.

The Flames blocked 20 shots, 18 of them in the first two periods when the Canucks’ power play, 11-for-33 over the final three weeks of the regular season, failed on three chances.

Bo Horvat scored the only Canuck goal at 12:08 of the second period with a backhand that appeared to clip Flames’ defenceman Dennis Wideman on its way through Hiller.

“We didn’t score another goal,” Higgins said of the key failure. “We had some good looks in the third period and their goalie made some big saves. We could have scored more than one goal. We need to find a way to bury those chances. You learn from it.”

Well, the Canucks hope to learn from it. With seven new players this season and a different vibe as underdogs, a status lost when they earned home-ice “advantage” in the playoffs, Canuck players say this team doesn’t feel like earlier ones that failed. But their core players have been studying playoff defeats for a while.

GAME ESSENTIALS

THE SKINNY

After a scoreless first period, Canuck rookie Bo Horvat opened scoring at 12:08 of the second period when he collected his own rebound and beat Jonas Hiller. The Flames pulled even at 7:59 of the third as David Jones beat Eddie Lack. Kris Russell then won it with 29.6 seconds left in the third when his point shot found its way through traffic. Shots were 30-30.

TURNING POINT

With the Canucks nursing a 1-0 lead heading into the third, they came out and peppered Hiller early but couldn’t find that second goal. Yannick Weber and Radim Vrbata then miscued on a breakout, the puck returned to the Vancouver zone and Weber turned it over a second time to Michael Ferland, who fed Jones for the tying goal. The Flames, who had been on their heels, were suddenly back on their toes.

BY THE NUMBERS

The Canucks have lost six straight playoff games, seven straight at home and are 1-11 in their last 12 … Henrik Sedin appeared in his 100th career playoff game … The Flames won for the 21st time when giving up the first goal and the 11th time when trailing after two … The Canucks had lost just once in regulation when leading after two periods during the regular season (30-1-3).

IN THE CIRCLE

The Flames entered the game ranked 26th in faceoffs while the Canucks were tied for 28th but it was Canucks who prevailed in the dot by a 26-22 margin. Henrik Sedin was 15-for-19 and Brad Richardson 6-for-10. Nick Bonino, 2-for-9, and Bo Horvat, 3-for-10, both had tough nights. Matt Stajan topped the Flames centremen with a 10-for-14 performance. Sean Monahan was 0-for-8 after two periods and finished 3-for-12.

FIRSTS OF THE SERIES

Canuck left-winger Ronalds Kenins had the first big hit as he rocked Flames defenceman Dennis Wideman behind the Calgary net … Alex Burrows had the first Canuck shot and Eddie Lack’s first save came off the stick off Mikael Backlund ... Flame rookie Sam Bennett took the first penalty, high sticking on Dan Hamhuis, and Johnny (Hockey) Gaudreau took the first over-the-glass delay of game penalty.

Elliott Pap, Vancouver Sun

 
 
 
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Canucks goalie Eddie Lack (31) sits on the ice after being scored on by Calgary Flames defenseman Kris Russell (4) during the third period of NHL playoff action in Vancouver, B.C. Wednesday, April 15, 2015.
 

Canucks goalie Eddie Lack (31) sits on the ice after being scored on by Calgary Flames defenseman Kris Russell (4) during the third period of NHL playoff action in Vancouver, B.C. Wednesday, April 15, 2015.

Photograph by: Jonathan Hayward, THE CANADIAN PRESS

 
Canucks goalie Eddie Lack (31) sits on the ice after being scored on by Calgary Flames defenseman Kris Russell (4) during the third period of NHL playoff action in Vancouver, B.C. Wednesday, April 15, 2015.
The Calgary Flames celebrate teammate Calgary Flames defenseman Kris Russell's goal during the third period of NHL playoff action against the Vancouver Canucks in Vancouver, B.C. Wednesday, April 15, 2015.
A Vancouver Canucks fan sits dejected after her team lost to the Calgary Flames by a score of 2-1 and Game 1 of the Western Conference's Pacific Division 2015 Stanley Cup playoff match up at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, B.C. Wednesday April 15, 2015. The Flames Kris Russell scored with 30 seconds left in the game.
Goalie Eddie Lack #31 of the Vancouver Canucks sits dejectedly on the ice after Kris Russell #4 of the Calgary Flames (not pictured) scored what proved to be the game winning goal.
Vancouver Canucks goalie Eddie Lack (31) reacts to Calgary Flames defenceman Kris Russell’s shot going past him during the third period.
Calgary Flames fans cheer their team after they scored against the Vancouver Canucks during the third period of Game 1 of the Western Conference's Pacific Division 2015 Stanley Cup playoff match up at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, B.C. Wednesday April 15, 2015. The Flames defeated the Canucks 2-1 after Kris Russell scored with 30 seconds left in the game.
Matt Stajan #18 of the Calgary Flames celebrates teammates David Jones #19 (not pictured) goal against the Vancouver Canucks.
Calgary Flames goalie Jonas Hiller (1) keeps his eye on the puck as Calgary Flames defenceman Dennis Wideman (6) tries to clear Vancouver Canucks left wing Ronalds Kenins (41) from in front of the net.
Vancouver Canucks fans sit dejected after their team lost to the Calgary Flames by a score of 2-1 and Game 1 of the Western Conference's Pacific Division 2015 Stanley Cup playoff match up at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, B.C. Wednesday April 15, 2015. The Flames Kris Russell scored with 30 seconds left in the game.
Vancouver Canucks' Kevin Bieksa, 3, battles the Calgary Flames' Markus Granlund, 60.
Calgary Flames' goalie Jonas Hiller, of Switzerland, celebrates after defeating the Vancouver Canucks during game 1 of an NHL Western Conference first round playoff hockey series in Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday April 15, 2015.
Sam Bennett #63 of the Calgary Flames falls to the ice while trying to crash the net of goalie Eddie Lack in Game One of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2015 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Rogers Arena on April, 15, 2015 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Yannick Weber #6 of the Vancouver Canucks and Joe Colborne #8 of the Calgary Flames battle for position while Dan Hamhuis #2 and Derek Dorsett #51 of the Vancouver Canucks and Mikael Backlund #11 of the Calgary Flames look for the puck.
Vancouver Canucks Bo Horvat, 53, battles the Calgary Flames T. J. Brodie,7.
Calgary Flames goalie Jonas Hiller (1) stops a shot from Vancouver Canucks defenceman Alexander Edler (23) as Calgary Flames defenceman T.J. Brodie (7) looks on.
Vancouver Canucks Bo Horvat  celebrates his 2nd period goal with Ronalds Kenins, 41, against the Calgary Flame.
Vancouver Canucks fans show their support watching the Calgary Flames  in game 1 of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Goalie Eddie Lack #31 of the Vancouver Canucks makes a save on Joe Colborne #8 of the Calgary Flames.
Calgary Flames centre Matt Stajan (18) celebrates teammate David Jones’s goal past Vancouver Canucks goalie Eddie Lack (31).
The Calgary Flames celebrate their 2-1 win over the Vancouver Canucks.
Vancouver Canucks super fan Barb Katz (left) greets Calgary Flames fan Chad Smith.
Vancouver Canucks Bo Horvat, left, battles with Calgary Flames Dennis Wideman.
Vancouver Canucks centre Brad Richardson (15) fights for control of the puck with Calgary Flames centre Sam Bennett (63).
Vancouver Canucks Eddie Lack has 3rd period goal go in.
Vancouver Canucks Eddie Lack battles the Calgary Flames Johnny Gaudreau.
Vancouver Canucks Eddie Lack has 3rd period goal go in.
Ronalds Kenins #41 of the Vancouver Canucks watches teammate Bo Horvat #53 (not pictured) shot go in past goalie Jonas Hiller #1 of the Calgary Flames.
Kris Russell #4 of the Calgary Flames celebrates with Dennis Wideman #6 after scoring what proved to be the game winning goal against the Vancouver Canucks.
Goalie Jonas Hiller #1 of the Calgary Flames makes a blocker save as Henrik Sedin #33 of the Vancouver Canucks looks for a rebound.
Calgary Flames right wing David Jones’s shot goes past Vancouver Canucks goalie Eddie Lack (31).
Brad Richardson #15 of the Vancouver Canucks tries to fight off the check of Johnny Gaudreau #13 of the Calgary Flames.
Vancouver Canucks Eddie Lack has late 3rd period goal go in to win the game for Calgary Flames.
Kris Russell #4 of the Calgary Flames celebrates with Dennis Wideman #6 after scoring what proved to be the game winning goal against the Vancouver Canucks.
Vancouver Canucks Kevin Bieksa, 3, battles the Calgary Flames Markus Granlund, 60.
David Jones #19 of the Calgary Flames is congratulated by T.J. Brodie #7, Michael Ferland #79 and Matt Stajan #18 after scoring a goal against the Vancouver Canucks.
Vancouver Canucks Eddie Lack has late 3rd period goal (by Kris Russell) go in to win the game.
 
 
 
 
 
 
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