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Season series between Flames, Canucks a back-and-forth affair

by Aaron Vickers / Calgary Flames

The Vancouver Canucks and Calgary Flames are far from strangers. The two clubs, on opposite sides of the Rocky Mountains, are separated by a short flight and share the Pacific Division.

There will be no surprises when the pair gather in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Having met four times in the regular season, there’s little room for either team to be caught off guard by the other.

It’s fitting that one of these teams will see their season ended by the other, as it was the Calgary and the Canucks meeting in what served as Calgary’s season-opener on October 8th.

Vancouver skated away with a 4-2 win at Scotiabank Saddledome thanks in part to a goal and an assist from Canucks captain Henrik Sedin and 23 saves from goaltender Ryan Miller.

"It's real nice," Miller said following the game. "It was a little anxious leading up to these games just because, you know, you start somewhere new you want to get off on the right foot. I thought it was a good team effort. Guys worked hard, got pucks to the net on those goals and really deserved to get pucks behind the line there. It was fun.

"We feel like it's important to contribute immediately."

The game wasn’t the way the Flames had hoped to kick off their campaign.

"We weren't good enough at the end of the night," captain Mark Giordano said. "It's about not getting to that position where we're down by a couple goals. We've got to find a way to put that desperation mode on a lot earlier in the game."

The pair met again with Calgary mired in their longest losing streak of the season, an eight-game slide that put their playoff contention in jeopardy at the time. While Calgary fell 3-2 in overtime, it was the first point they had earned after seven straight regulation losses and came after the Flames rallied from a two-goal deficit.

"We're a very confident group here, but when you blow a two-goal lead," said Vancouver defenceman Chris Tanev, who scored in the game, after the win. "They were on us pretty good. It just shows how resilient we are."

It was a much-needed point at the time for the Flames.

"We talked about our character since the start of the year," coach Bob Hartley said. "I felt it would have been easy to fold the tent tonight, second game in two nights, but credit to our guys, they battled back."

The Flames found some revenge in the New Year, earning a 1-0 win on Jan. 10th thanks in large part to the goaltending heroics of Joni Ortio, whose 36-save shutout was part of a four-game winning streak for the rookie netminder.

"Coming off losing three in a row and going on the road for five, it was big to start it off the right way," said centre Mikael Backlund after scoring the game’s only goal. "We haven't won in this building for a long time so it was nice to get the win against one of our biggest rivals too. It was a huge boost to win this game."

Not so much from the Canucks’ side, though.

"We deserved a better fate for sure," Daniel Sedin said.

On Valentine’s Day, Calgary’s success continued, edging the Canucks 3-2 thanks in large part to Sean Monahan, whose two-goal performance came in a span of five minutes.

"We play those guys more often and once you've played teams more than once or twice throughout a season it gives you that rival and you want to win those games more," Monahan said afterwards. "When we play Vancouver obviously we have that extra little bit and find ways to get those two points.

"Those games are huge. We're getting down, blocking shots and trying to do the little things. When you have a full team effort like that it feels great."

The win clinched the season-series for the Flames, who finished with a 2-1-1 record against the historically tough Vancouver club.

What happens in the opening round of the postseason is to be determined. Slates will be wiped clean. Regular season results tossed to the side.

The rivalry will be renewed.

A winner crowned in seven games or less.

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