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Bennett and Flames now focused on Game 3 and retaking series lead

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames /

Playoffs are never, ever a leisurely sail across a glassy-still lake on a completely benign afternoon. 

They're anything but the equivalent of a cue ball rolling languidly over the green felt of a billiard table.

Squalls are as much a part of playoffs as ice-bags, sacrifice and high drama. They're guaranteed to be littered with potholes, booby-traps and, often, fasten-your-seatbelt level turbulence.

"I hate to be Captain Obvious here," said Travis Hamonic in the wake of a 3-2 OT loss that has squared the Flames' first-round playoff series against Avalanche at a game apiece, "but you're not going to go 16-0.

"I thought we battled extremely hard. But those things are going to happen.

"You're gonna play tight games. You're going to play overtime games.

"You're going to lose games.

"But you've got to be resilient. You've got to bounce back. We've got the group in here, the leadership, that's going to make sure we're ready to go in Colorado next week.

"When things don't go your way, it's how you respond that matters.







The seventh shot of the evening off the stick blade of Avalanche forward Nathan McKinnon exploded up and over the glove of magnificent Mike Smith 8:27 into overtime to yank the conference's eighth seed back from a potential two-game-hole abyss.

Far more involved and truculent than during Game One's 4-0 loss, the persistent Avalanche had forced OT when left-winger J.T. Compher swept a backhand behind Smith at 17:21 of the third with his goalie pulled for the extra attacker, a shade less than five minutes after Sean Monahan staked Calgary to its first lead.

Seconds prior to MacKinnon's winner, Avs' goalie Philipp Grubauer had blocked a gilt-edged, in-tight chance from Flames' winger Michael Frolik by way of his left pad.


Video: "It was a close game. It was a game of inches" 


"That's hockey," reasoned Smith, utterly superb for a second time in 48 hours, spitting back 34 shots. "Sometimes you get the short end of the stick but we battled hard.

"I don't think we've played our best hockey yet. And I think everyone in here will tell you the same thing. 

"We were a little tentative tonight. We weren't skating as well as well as we can, or have, and made them look really, really fast."

The consensus in the Flames room was that an uncharacteristically timid start allowed the Avalanche to find a foothold lacking in the opener.

"We didn't play our game at the start, for sure," sighed captain Mark Giordano. "We let them take it to us physically a little bit too much in the first.

"But as the game went on, and especially in overtime, we had good looks, had our chances. Right at the end, Fro had a good look, (Grubauer) made a good save and it was a good shot by MacKinnon coming to the middle.

"Good play. Good pass. Good shot.

"We have to be a lot harder to play against. We had moments tonight but we have to put together a full 60. We've got to get in front of guys, cut them off, make them make plays. You can't put pucks on the wall. Their D were really aggressive tonight.

"A tough way to lose but there are these moments all the time in playoffs but you have to deal with them and move on.

"Momentum changes in playoffs and we've got to get it back next game."


Video: "We have to be a lot harder to play against"


The Avalanche were propelled forward by their most influential players Friday. MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen were all far more noticeable than Wednesday.

"What I liked about our team is that we were highly competitive from the drop of the puck," critiqued Colorado boss Jared Bednar.

"Every guy was engaged, mentally, physically and emotionally. We didn't (in Game One) have that attack mentality we're used to seeing from this group.

"Today, we had it.

"We were skating, hanging onto pucks, getting pucks to the net, making plays. A really good game from our team."

And so the series, now all square, heads south to the Pepsi Center for games Monday and Wednesday.

"We're not hitting the panic button or anything," said winger Sam Bennett. "We're a good team. We all believe in each other.

"It's just a matter of a better start, of being more prepared."


Video: "We definitely learned a lesson tonight"

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