On the brink: Flames silence Canucks, take 3-1 series lead


The Calgary Flames haven’t won a playoff round since 2004 — the year they last went to the Stanley Cup final.

Now, they’re just one victory away from moving on.

Calgary pushed Vancouver to the edge of elimination on Wednesday night, scoring a 3-1 win at the Saddledome to take a commanding three games to one lead in the opening-round series. Jiri Hudler’s first-period tally proved to be the decisive goal as the Flames did all their damage in the opening frame — three goals on seven shots, chasing Canucks goalie Eddie Lack in the process — before shutting down the Canucks over the final 40 minutes of action.

For Vancouver, it was a forgettable evening.

After losing veteran winger Alex Burrows (broken rib) in the morning skate, the club also dropped banged-up forward Brad Richardson from the lineup, giving Linden Vey and Brandon McMillan their series debuts. Both were largely ineffective, though hardly to blame for what was an erratic effort — and a second period in which the Canucks put just three shots on goal.

Vancouver’s vaunted penalty kill, which finished second in the NHL (85.7 percent) during the regular season, failed to silence Calgary’s big guns as Johnny Gaudreau and Hudler both scored with the man advantage in the first period. All told, the Flames now have four power play goals through four games.

And while Calgary wasn’t as aggressive as it was in Game 3 — the Flames out-hit Vancouver 33-18 — there was still a noticeable physical edge on Tuesday night as the Flames had 29 hits to Vancouver’s 18. Michael Ferland continued to wreak havoc on the forecheck while 18-year-old Sam Bennett, playing in just his fifth NHL game, continued to provide a valuable net-front presence and scored his second goal of the series with under a minute left in the first period.

“It’s his grit. Eighteen years old and playing in the NHL playoffs with so much character,” Flames coach Bob Hartley said of Bennett. “It’s pretty amazing. He went to the net and the hockey gods rewarded him.

“What he brings, his determination, his grist, his passion, that’s what you need in the playoffs. This kid is full of character.”

Henrik Sedin scored his first goal — and Vancouver’s lone goal — on the power play midway through the opening frame. It was just the Canucks’ second goal on the man advantage this series.

The Canucks actually dominated possession at even strength. It was translating that possession into scoring chances where they struggled, as the Flames blocked 29 shots on the night.

“They’re collapsing quite a bit,” said Canucks coach Willie Desjardins. “I think we’ve got to use our points. They collapse and they’re just making it hard to get to the net.”

With Game 4 now in the books, the two teams will meet again on Thursday at Rogers Arena and, by then, will be pretty well versed in 3-1 series leads. According to WhoWins.com, teams that go up 3-1 win the series 91 percent of the time… with 56 percent of those decided in Game 5.


Miller made his Canucks playoff debut and performed well, stopping all 15 shots faced in his first game action since a 6-5 OT win over Edmonton in the season finale… Jonas Hiller stopped 27 of 28 shots and has now allowed just seven goals in this series… Hudler and Dennis Wideman led the Flames with two points each.

Night of firsts: Johnny Hockey nets first-ever playoff marker (Video)


Couple of significant goals scored this evening.

After Antoine Vermette snapped a 20-game goalless drought to get his first as a Blackhawk, Flames rookie Johnny Gaudreau netted his first-ever playoff goal to give Calgary a 1-0 lead over Vancouver in Game 4 of its first-round series:

Gaudreau, a likely Calder finalist after scoring 24 goals and 64 points in 80 games this season, has performed well in his playoff debut. He’s now up to four points through four games and is averaging close to 19 minutes a night — key contributions for a guy that doesn’t turn 22 until August.

As for tonight’s game, the goals are coming fast and furious. After Henrik Sedin scored to even things at 1-1, Gaudreau assisted on Dennis Wideman’s power-play marker to give Calgary a 2-1 lead.

Video: Flames, Canucks combine for over 100 PIM in wild line brawl


VANCOUVER — With less than two minutes remaining in the Canucks’ 4-1 win over Calgary in Game 2 of their opening-round series, this happened:


The brawl came after a chippy 58 minutes of action in which the Flames, stymied for most of the night by Vancouver’s tight checking and the goaltending of Eddie Lack, started to get physical; Michael Ferland took a healthy run at Chris Tanev that ended with a charging penalty midway through the third, and both Dennis Wideman and Yannick Weber were given 10-minute misconducts with less than five to go.

Then came the fireworks. Nobody’s quite sure of the total penalty minute tally yet, as the game officials still appear to be working out the figures, but the incident easily eclipsed 100 PIM all told.

Looking ahead, it’ll be interesting to see if the NHL’s Department of Player Safety opts to review any of tonight’s events; Deryk Engelland received an instigator penalty late, on top of two (yes, two) fighting majors and two (or possibly three) game misconducts.

There also could be a review of Dan Hamhuis, who was the third man in on the fight between Engelland and Derek Dorsett.

Home sweet home, finally: Canucks start strong, earn emotional win over Flames


VANCOUVER — For the first time in a long time, the Canucks won a playoff game at home.

Four years, in fact.

But the streak of futility is now over, snapped in impressive fashion on Friday night as the Canucks, buoyed by a boisterous Rogers Arena crowd, beat the Calgary Flames 4-1 in a wild and emotional affair that ended with a good ol’ fashioned line brawl.

The Canucks, who’d lost their seven previous postseason games at Rogers — the last win came in Game 5 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final against Boston — called tonight’s affair a “must-win” and both they and the fans responded accordingly. Vancouver put on a dominant performance in the opening 20 minutes that featured two goals — from Daniel Sedin and Chris Higgins, the latter proving the game-winner — 11 hits and 13 shots.

Calgary, meanwhile, only put three pucks on Eddie Lack in the period.

“We got off to a great start again, like we did last game,” said captain Henrik Sedin. “The difference was that we scored a few more. That’s why we won the game.”

Th Canucks’ strong start set the tone for the remainder of the contest, as Vancouver maintained control and never really gave the Flames much chance of getting back in it. The second period was a scoreless affair but still intense, featuring a goal-crease skirmish between Lack and some Flames skaters (a recurring theme throughout the evening, as Calgary seemed intent on trying to rattle the Swedish ‘tender.)

That fired the Vancouver crowd into an “Eddie, Eddie, Eddie” chant, one of many on the night.

As for the third period, it proved the highest-scoring of them all. Latvian winger Ronalds Kenins scored just 2:17 in to give Vancouver a 3-0 lead — his first-ever playoff goal — and the Flames got their lone marker with 3:34 left as Kris Russell scored his second of the series.

Radim Vrbata added an empty-netter just over a minute later, and then things went off the rails:

There were penalties galore from that brawl, with Flames d-man Deryk Engelland receiving two fighting majors and two game misconducts.

“It’s just them trying to generate momentum for the next game,” said Vancouver defenseman Kevin Bieksa. “You’ve got to expect that from a couple of their guys.”

Needless to say, the stage has been set for Sunday’s Game 3 in Calgary, where the red-clad Saddledome fans are expected to be as loud, if not more so, than their B.C.-based counterparts.

“I played there once in the playoffs, and it’s a loud building, ” said Sedin. “It’s a lot of fun to play there. They’ve got some great hockey fans there.

“It’s great for them to see playoff hockey. They’ve been waiting for a long time.”


Both Flames d-man Dennis Wideman and rookie forward Sam Bennett were shaken up during the game, as both left the Calgary bench for a spell before returning to action… Lack was less than four minutes away from posting his first-ever playoff shutout in just his second career playoff game.

Desjardins defends limited ice time for Sedins


Vancouverites woke up this morning, turned on the radio, and heard all about how Canucks coach Willie Desjardins got out-coached in last night’s 2-1 loss to the Calgary Flames.

Many listeners did not disagree.

In particular, people wanted to know — why did Daniel Sedin, a top-10 scorer in the NHL during the regular season, only play 16:14 while forwards like Nick Bonino (16:24) and Chris Higgins (16:53) played more? The former was the best Canuck, Corsi-wise, in the game; the latter two were the worst. So it’s not like the coach could say he was just rewarding the guys who were playing well.

Desjardins was asked about it following this morning’s practice.

“We play our best when we’re fresh,” he said. “Maybe [the Sedins] should have had a couple more minutes, probably wouldn’t have hurt. But … there’s no sense burning them out one game. They’re going to be fresh for the next game, and maybe in the end that’ll pay off.”

This storyline is, of course, an extension from last year when then-coach John Tortorella was accused of overplaying the Sedins. Ever since taking over, Desjardins has preached a four-line mantra, a philosophy that paid off in a return to form for the twins and a playoff berth for the team.

Still, just 16:14 for Daniel? And only 4:45 in the third period when the game was on the line? That’s going to get people talking.

Desjardins is apparently taking the long view here. The most any Canuck played in Game 1 was 22:11, logged by defenseman Alex Edler. Radim Vrbata led the forwards at 17:50; Henrik Sedin played just 17:29.

In stark contrast, Flames coach Bob Hartley rode his top players, with three d-men — Dennis Wideman (30:03), Kris Russell (29:07), and T.J. Brodie (26:05) — playing big minutes. Sean Monahan led the forwards with 20:09.

We’ll see how it pays off for each coach. Desjardins will be hoping it’s a long series and that his rested players can eventually take over from the theoretically fatigued Flames. Hartley will be hoping for a short one, with time to rest up for the second round.

Game 2 goes tomorrow in Vancouver.