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Five Takeways: Game 4

by Jason Johnson / Calgary Flames



CALGARY, AB
-- Three down, one to go.

The Flames did exactly what they did in Game 3 -- limited Vancouver's chances and kept them to the outside. They took it to the Canucks' blueliners again and again. By the end of the night Vancouver's defenceman wanted nothing to do with Calgary's forward's.

In the end, a 3-1 victory to show for the efforts and a stranglehold on the series. It's back to Rogers Arena for Game 5 on Thursday and a chance for the Flames to advance to the second round.

TAKEAWAY ONE

The Flames played their best game of the series in Game 3 and if they were to move on to round two -- for the second time since their Stanley Cup parade season of 1988-89 -- they would have to equal or better that effort moving forward.

On Tuesday, Calgary suffocated the Canucks with their speed, forecheck and physical play -- elements that have allowed Calgary to take total control of the series and the reason why they skated to a 3-1 win on Saddledome ice and an equal record in the best-of-seven series.

"We managed to keep them to the outside. Especially in the third period we knew that they would make a push," Hartley said after Tuesday's win. "I felt all their four lines, they made a great push. Edler was supporting the attack, Weber and all their defenceman. We managed to keep them on the outside. You want to spend -- especially in the third period -- as much time as possible in the offensive zone but you know that they're going to take chances and you don't want to get caught in out-numbered situations.

"I'm really proud of my guys. Total team effort."

If Calgary can manage one more effort like the two contests in the C of Red, they will advance to round two.

TAKEAWAY TWO

Jonas Hiller's 28-save performance Tuesday was not only one of his best in the 2015 post-season, it was one of his top games as a member of the Flames.

The goaltender came up huge time-and-time again and did exactly what the Flames needed him to do -- give them a chance to win.

Although Calgary limited Vancouver's chances and kept the shots mostly to the outside, the Canucks made a big push in the latter stages of the third period and Hiller shut the door when he had to.

“I thought, especially in the second period that we played really well, we barely gave up any shots," Hiller said of his team, who have a chance to wrap-up the series Thursday in Vancouver. "We knew they were going to be coming in the third. I think we did a really good job to keep them on the outside.

"I thought I made a couple good saves and I think that’s needed. The effort was definitely there, from the first minute. Great win for us, and the power play was huge for us. We found a way to play with that lead and not give up too much."

TAKEWAY THREE

Much criticism plagued the Flames top line of Johnny Gaudreau, Jiri Hudler and Sean Monahan through the first games of the series.

The Canucks keyed on them, concentrating on physical play and did a decent job of shutting them down. The trio still managed to create opportunities but nothing like they did in March and April, when they were arguably the top line in the NHL.

They looked like the unit that received all the attention during the regular season Tuesday, and capitalized on a couple of powerplays.

"We have two very young players on that line with Huds," Hartley said. "It's the playoffs and we know who their best players are and they know who our best players are. It's a matter of finding that space -- on the powerplay or 5-on-5 -- you need to create that space sometimes. Even though it's not there you need to be persistent. Those guys have worked so hard for us this year, I have no doubt. They are three unbelievable workers, they love to play together, their chemistry

is good, their team chemistry is very good. They gave us the second goal and two [powerplay goals] is huge."

Calgary found the net during a man advantage after a nifty between-the-legs pass from Dennis Wideman to Hudler who found Gaudreau perched at the side of the net and made no mistake.

"We found the net a few times, I think that's probably the only difference," said Gaudreau, who all of a sudden has three points in four games. "Last game, we had a good amount of chances and just didn't find the net. We found the net a few times and I think we could have found it more."

TAKEWAY FOUR

It's hard to decide who played better on the Flames second line of Mikael Backlund, Joe Colborne and Sam Bennett.

They were all over the Canucks with a relentless forecheck and created chances all night. The the defensive zone, sound and poised. Hartley has found himself another solid unit -- responsible for the final marker which restored the Flames two-goal edge.

"Any time you can build on your lead that's huge," Bennett said. It gives you a little bit more of a cushion so that you can focus more on defending and just holding them off. I think we did a great job of holding them off in the third."

All three are a nice blend of skill and grit and are using every tool in the toolbox to wreak havoc on the Canucks defence.

TAKEWAY FIVE

Bennett has been a staple in the Five Takeways this post-season and I'm not getting tired of writing about him.

The 18-year-old is proving he is more than ready for NHL action, making an impact on the biggest stage with literally no experience. We all knew Bennett was a special player, but this?

We all thought maybe two or three years down the road Bennett would be leading this group with Monahan, Gaudreau and Brodie. The impact Bennett has had is remarkable. It's like found money for Bob Hartley as I'm sure he wasn't sure how much the rookie would play coming into the playoffs.

"It's his grit. 18-year's-old and playing in the NHL playoffs with so much character -- it's amazing," Hartley said. "He went to the net and the hockey gods rewarded him -- [Brodie] shot right at his stick."

One of the most notable characteristics Bennett brings is the fact he doesn't back down from anything.

"Sammy is great on forecheck,"Hartley continued. "He has many things to learn, he came to us right from Junior but what he brings is determination, his grit, his passion. That's what you need in the playoffs. This kid is full of character."

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