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Five Takeaways: Flames @ Canucks - Game 1

by Jason Johnson / Calgary Flames



TAKEAWAY ONE:

JONAS HILLER -- The Calgary Flames goaltender erased any doubt that he should be the go-to guy in the playoffs. Calgary needed Hiller to come up big and he delivered.

The game's first star turned aside 29 Vancouver Canucks shots directed at him, mixing in some huge saves. One memorable stop was a Mike Vernon-esque, around-the-world glove save on a rocket slapper by Daniel Sedin early in the third period.

"They had a few pretty good chances early in the third, and if they score [the] game might be over," Hiller said. "Those are the saves you want to make. They can shift the momentum and I think that's what happened."

I think it's safe to say that Flames fans are comfortable with Hiller moving forward.

TAKEAWAY TWO:

SAM BENNETT -- In just his second NHL game -- yes, his second NHL game -- the 18-year-old Bennett was arguably the best skater on the ice.

Given the circumstances and magnitude of the the game, to say that I'm impressed with the Flames first-round selection last summer is a huge understatement. I wasn't sure what to expect, but Bennett came out flying and had a few a-grade scoring chances right off the hop, driving fearlessly to the net.

"It was definitely a different beast, this game," said Bennett, who picked up an assist on the game winning goal. " It was everything I thought it would be. It was so much fun out there, it was so fast and to get the win in my first playoff game was huge."

He didn't stop there.

Bennett continued to be a thorn in the side of the Canucks with a physical brand of hockey and generated several scoring chances. It's clear the Flames have something special in Bennett and I'll bet nobody expected to see it this soon.

"We had no clue he would be with us in the playoffs but today it turned into a great investment," Hartley said. "He can skate, he's a gritty player and he's built for playoffs."

Not only did Bennett draw an assist on Kris Russell's winning goal, he logged 14:58 of ice time, was credited with four shots and two hits and even saw some power play time.

TAKEWAY THREE:

MICHAEL FERLAND -- When Canucks' blueliner Yannick Weber sees Ferland on Friday it will be too soon.

Ferland pounded the defenceman every chance he got and didn't skimp on his checks, either. The rookie forward was everything Calgary hoped he would be when they drafted him and more in Game 1 in Vancouver. He recovered from an early gaff -- taking an undisciplined penalty late in the first period -- and played a big part in David Jones' marker halfway through the third that got the Flames on the board.

"That's my role, to give their forwards and their [defence] some hard minutes and finish all my checks, said the 21-year-old, who was credited with seven hits on the night. "It was really exciting, I could feed off their fans and the energy in the building and it felt good to get the win."

It started a few weeks ago, as Ferland's game started coming around to become a more impactful player each game.

"I just want to come in like I do every game, I was just trying to keep things like the way they are for every game," Ferland said. " I got my nap in [before the game] and came to the rink and I just felt better as the game went on."

As much as the Flames miss Lance Bouma, Ferland is doing a splendid job filling in.

"Another great young warrior for us," Hartley said of his rugged winger. "He played some hard minutes for us and went at the net hard. He created a turnover on the tying goal so I'm very proud of him."

TAKEWAY FOUR:

NEVER QUIT -- So many times this season the Flames have not come out of the gate with the right zeal. Calgary weathered the storm in the first period and responded with a very strong second and an even better finish in the third.

"It's never easy to win on the road, especially having a young team an not having that much experience," Hiller said. "In the first period we didn't play as confident as we normally do but the longer the game went along the better we played."

Mark down comeback victory number 24 this season for this team, a remarkable statistic that has forged this group's identity. Vancouver had only surrendered one game during the regular season in the 334 times they had the lead after two periods.

"Those guys are unbelievable, they always find a way," Hartley said. I think again tonight our conditioning is really paying off. We gave a few days off to quite a few guys but I thought it was a great investment."

TAKEAWAY FIVE

DAVID JONES - MATT STAJAN - MICHAEL FERLAND -- The Flames third line is a major factor in the Calgary stealing home-ice advantage in the series.

In a tight game, the trio was buzzing all night long, creating chances and were able to set a tone by getting pucks deep and getting in on the forecheck.

"It's easy playing with [Stajan] and [Jones]," Ferland said. "If you have a bad shift they're right there after to help calm you down and relax. When I took that penalty I was pissed off and down on myself and they both told me to not change a thing, keep playing my game."

The reward was the Flames' tying marker -- a hard wrister courtesy of Jones that beat Eddie Lack on the glove side -- which was a turning point in the final frame.

On a night where the Flames first unit was uncharacteristically silent, Calgary needed someone to step up and that's exactly what they did.

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