Ryan Miller

One more time, with feeling: Flames stage yet another comeback, eliminate Vancouver

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The Calgary Flames made a name for themselves this season with their third-period comebacks.

So it was fitting, then, that they won their first playoff series in 11 years in that very fashion.

Calgary beat Vancouver 7-4 on Saturday in Game 6 of their opening-round matchup, winning the series four games to two. The dramatic, come-from-behind win came after the Flames erased the Canucks’ 3-0 first-period lead, then rallied again in the third, much to the delight of a delirious Saddledome crowd.

“What a comeback, look at this crowd,” Flames head coach Bob Hartley said afterward. “We’re a big team, 20 [players] on the bench, but this crowd is unbelievable and those guys are just amazing.”

The series was bookended by comebacks. Calgary also won Game 1 courtesy a third-period rally, scoring the deciding marker with 30 seconds left.

Tonight’s heroics happened a bit earlier than in Game 1, though not by much. Matt Stajan scored the game-winner with under five minutes left, snapping home a wrister above the shoulder of Ryan Miller:

Stajan’s goal came after Jiri Hudler evened the score at four early in the frame, capitalizing on the power play after an interference call on Canucks forward Brandon McMillan.

Prior to Calgary’s third-period magic, the game was a dramatic affair. Vancouver looked to be in cruise control in the first after scoring three goals in just over seven minutes, but the Flames quickly replied with three goals of their own, including two in under five minutes from Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau early in the second period.

Shortly after the Flames tied things up, Luca Sbisa scored his first goal of the playoffs to give Vancouver a 4-3 edge, which it’d carry into the third — paving the way for Stajan to become the man of the night.

“We’ve worked so hard all year,” Stajan said after the game. “To come back like we have all year, it feels so good. We deserve it. We never back down. We’ll enjoy this, but we don’t want to stop. We want to keep going now.”

“We just felt in our room that we were going to come back. We found a way. That’s what we’ve done all year.”

As mentioned above, the win moves Calgary into the second round for the first time since 2004 — the same year they made it all the way to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final, before losing to Tampa Bay. The Flames will now take on Anaheim in Round 2.

As for the Canucks, losing the series — and the way they lost — has to be viewed as a major disappointment. While the club did well to bounce-back from last year’s disastrous campaign and make the playoffs, Vancouver failed to win a game on the road, saw its second-ranked penalty kill surrender five power-play goals over the series and lacked the killer instinct to put Calgary away in Games 1 and 6.

“The first couple of games, I felt we could’ve taken both at home,” a dejected Henrik Sedin said afterward. “[But] they came home tied 1-1.”

Of course, the Flames would argue they’re just not the kind of team you just put away.

Comebacks are kind of their thing.

Notes…

Karri Ramo replaced Jonas Hiller in the first period and fared well, stopping 17 of 19 shots… Miller finished with 26 saves on 31 shots… The Flames potted a pair of empty-net goals, which inflated their stat totals a bit, but still got great production from Stajan, Sean Monahan, Johnny Gaudreau, David Jones, Michael Ferland (three points each) and Jiri Hudler, who finished with four…Jannik Hansen led all Canuck scorers with two points; Vancouver got points from 10 different skaters.

Stayin’ Alive: Canucks stage comeback of their own, send series back to Calgary

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VANCOUVER — The Canucks fought to play another day.

In one of its hardest-working and most determined efforts of the opening round, Vancouver beat Calgary 2-1 on Thursday in Game 5, staving off elimination while sending the series back to the Saddledome trailing three games to two.

“I thought from the get-go, the whole team had a good game,” Daniel Sedin said. “These are fun games to be a part of. It’s do or die and we played a solid 60 minutes.

“It was probably our best game of the series.”

Sedin scored the game-winner just 1:47 into the third period. Nick Bonino had netted the equalizer midway through the game — after trailing for nearly 30 minutes — as Vancouver gave the Flames a bit of their own medicine from Game 1, when the Flames trailed for the majority of the contest and scored the winner in the final frame.

As they’ve done for most of the series, the Canucks controlled 5-on-5 possession. They’re hoping that will pay dividends.

“They have to get tired (from) all the zone time and shots and protecting down low. I think it should pay off,” Sedin said. “But it’s a new game Saturday. We’re going to have to bring it again.”

As you’d expect in a 2-1 game, both goalies played a major role. Jonas Hiller was outstanding in the Calgary net, making 41 saves while Ryan Miller, making his first playoff start as a Canuck, stopped 20 of 21 shots.

“They ran the system really well, we were great on the PK late,” Miller said of his Canuck teammates. “All the credit to the guys in front of me.”

The Flames will likely be disappointed in their inability to close things out, and won’t like tonight’s disparity in zone play. That said, they’re still in relatively good shape and have another opportunity to close out the series on Saturday at home.

“It’s all about our character,” Flames head coach Bob Hartley said. “Once again we’re facing adversity, but that’s what we’ve done all year. Our young players have done well, our veterans are used to it.”

The Canucks, meanwhile, will be buoyed by tonight’s performance and a stingy defensive effort in front of Miller, who broke from his normally stoic demeanor in the post-game celebration, enthusiastically hyping up the Vancouver crowd.

There’s a long way to go from 3-1 down, but the Canucks make a significant move in that direction tonight.

Notes…

Bonino scored his first playoff goal as a Canuck and now has three points in his last four games… The 43 shots on goal were easily Vancouver’s most of the series, eclipsing the previous high of 32 in Game 2… T.J. Brodie led all skaters with 27:21 TOI, while Dennis Wideman finished second with 27:01.

Facing elimination, Canucks turn to Ryan Miller

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Two periods of “clean” and “calm” goaltending have earned Ryan Miller the start for the Vancouver Canucks when they try to stave off elimination tonight against the Flames.

Miller replaced Eddie Lack Tuesday, stopping all 15 shots he faced in the 3-1 loss.

“He’s been in big games before, but the biggest thing is how he played in Calgary. I thought he looked really sharp,” Canucks coach Willie Desjardins said this morning.

“He just made some clean saves. They had some good chances. We were pressing, so we gave up some clear-cut chances, and I thought he was really clean on quite a few of his saves. And he looked calm, too.”

The risk is that Miller has only played five periods of hockey since getting hurt in February. The 34-year-old conceded yesterday that he was still recovering from the sprained knee he suffered on Long Island two months ago.

And certainly Lack has not been the reason Vancouver finds itself trailing the series 3-1. Only one of the three goals he surrendered in Game 4 — the third one, by Sam Bennett — could be categorized as bad.

Desjardins said it wasn’t an easy decision.

“Eddie’s played really great for us,” he said. “He did a great job down the stretch.”

But now it’s up to Miller, the free agent the Canucks signed to a three-year, $18 million contract this past summer.

“I think playoffs always comes down to goaltending,” said Desjardins. “If you get great goaltending, you always have a chance.”

Related: Baertschi to play Game 5; Burrows out for series

Cratering Canucks put Miller in for Lack

Their first-round series against the Calgary Flames is really slipping away, so perhaps it’s time for the Vancouver Canucks to turn to Ryan Miller.

They’re doing it for at least part of Game 4, as they pulled Eddie Lack after allowing three goals on just seven shots. Here’s the final goal allowed:

Again, this may be one of those situations where a team makes a goalie change as much to wake up the team at large as it is to respond to a netminder’s performance.

This situation would get a lot more interesting if the Canucks can back into this one and make this more than a time-killing relief appearance for Miller, though.

Canucks confirm Lack to start Game 1

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Though there was little doubt about who’d be Vancouver’s playoff starter, head coach Willie Dejardins cemented it on Wednesday by confirming Eddie Lack would be in goal for Game 1 against Calgary.

Lack, who took over for the injured Ryan Miller in late February, has never appeared in the postseason before. That pales in comparison to Miller, who has over 50 Stanley Cup playoff games on his resume, and that gap in experience has led to questions if Lack is on a short leash.

Of course, leash length is also dependent on Miller’s health.

He suffered a fairly significant knee injury and appears to have rushed back into action. In Saturday’s season finale — a 6-5 OT win over Edmonton — Miller got the start but looked rusty and, afterward, admitted he wasn’t entirely comfortable.

“My goal was to get back, get some kind of playing time, get myself into position where I could be an option and be effective if I’m called upon,” said Miller, per Metro News. “I didn’t really set anything too high for myself. I wanted to move well … and it wasn’t great early on but I think later on, it sort of came back.”