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Hiller key as Flames eye advancing

by Aaron Vickers / Calgary Flames

Hiller has been a very strong figure for us. He’s so calm, he doesn’t get rattled, he stays always in the game, he’s ready for every shot, and I think that he’s a very big part.Bob Hartley

CALGARY, AB -- The crowd jeered one goaltender and cheered another.

But at any given time it was tough to distinguish whether the Scotiabank Saddledome faithful were throwing their support behind Calgary Flames goalie Jonas Hiller, or Ryan Miller, who came on in relief of Eddie Lack after the Vancouver Canucks starter was yanked after 20 minutes, and four saves, of work.

Hiller didn’t mind.

“I just assumed they were yelling Miller instead of Hiller,” he said shortly after turning in a 28-save performance to help put the Flames up 3-1 in the best-of-7 Western Conference First Round series that heads back to Vancouver for Game 5 on Thursday.

“I’ll just imagine it if they call Hiller in Vancouver it’s going to be Miller. It’s part of it, but its fun, the crowd is in to it.”

Calgary can clinch their first trip beyond the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs since 2004’s memorable run. It would be just the second trip to round two for the Flames since hoisting Stanley in 1989.

It’s in large part to Hiller, who’s role has been largely understated thanks to strong performances from standout rookies like Michael Ferland and Sam Bennett.

The 33-year-old veteran of eight seasons in the National Hockey League has been equally important to putting the Canucks on the verge of a first round exit.

For his efforts, Hiller has a 1.79 goals against average and .938 save percentage after platooning much of the regular season with fellow netminder Karri Ramo. Hiller played 52 regular season games, posting a 26-19-4 record with a 2.36 goals against average and .918 save percentage.

When Ramo sustained a lower body injury late in the season, it opened the door for Hiller to run with the bulk of the work heading into the playoffs.

He’s become a subplot to the series since.

But the praise has come before the native of Felben Wellhausen, Switzerland had a chance to improve upon those numbers in Game 4 to put Calgary on the verge of advancing and the Canucks on the edge of elimination.

“Hiller has been a very strong figure for us,” Flames coach Bob Hartley said following Monday’s optional skate. “He’s so calm, he doesn’t get rattled, he stays always in the game, he’s ready for every shot, and I think that he’s a very big part.”

That didn’t change Tuesday.

And it helped earn him the coveted firefighter helmet, passed on from 18-year-old rookie Sam Bennett.

“It was a tough one,” Bennett said. “There were so many good players on our team tonight. But Hills, he played unbelievable. Those last couple saves in the third, and all game, he really kept us in it.

“We wouldn't have won without him.”

Nor would they be on the verge of moving beyond the first round for just the second time in 26 years, not that the veteran Hiller would contemplate the notion until it happens.

“I don’t think that far ahead,” he said. “We still have to win one more game. Normally the fourth one is the hardest one to win. I think we definitely want to do this as quickly as possible. We will worry about winning this next one and then we will look ahead after that.”

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