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.