VANCOUVER, B.C. - Mikael Backlund scored a goal and assisted on two others as the Kelowna Rockets earned a 4-2 victory over to steal home-ice advantage from the Vancouver Giants in the opening game of their WHL Western Conference final series Saturday night.
Backlund, who spent the first half of the season with Vasteras of the Swedish Elite League, extended his playoff scoring streak to five games. The 2007 first-round pick of the Calgary Flames has six goals and four assists in that span.
Ian Duval scored two goals, including an empty-netter on a pass from Backlund with 28 seconds left in the game, for the Rockets. Mitchell Callahan supplied the other Kelowna marker as the Rockets scored three times in the second period.
James Henry and Lance Bouma replied for the Giants in an ill-fated third-period comeback.
Vancouver won five of eight regular-season meetings against Kelowna, but the Rockets won their final three games against the Giants.
The Rockets, who had two more days rest than Vancouver after the second round, dominated after a scoreless first period in which the Giants held the upper hand.
Despite enjoying a 10-6 edge in shots in the first, Vancouver was denied a single shot over the last six minutes - problem that continued in the second as Kelowna outshot the Giants 15-4 to build its three-goal lead.
Backlund, who joined the Rockets after playing for Sweden at the world junior championships, gave the Rockets a 1-0 lead on a power play five minutes into the second period. He retrieved a Vancouver dump-in from goaltender Mark Guggenberger and then skated alone up ice, deked a defender and beat goaltender Tyson Sexsmith with a wrist shot to his glove side. The goal came after Giants defenceman Nick Ross took a delay of game penalty for knocking the puck in mid-air over the glass.
Callahan gave the Rockets a 2-0 lead at 13:16 of the second period as he came out of the penalty box, intercepted a Ross pass and fired a slapshot that trickled through Sexsmith's legs.
Vancouver had a goal disallowed at 14:38 after a video review determined that Bouma deliberately directed in a Craig Cunningham shot with his glove. It was Vancouver's first shot on goal of the period.
Duval put Kelowna ahead 3-0 two minutes later as he fired in a pass from Backlund.
Bouma scored a legitimate goal on a power play, after Kelowna had been penalized for having too many players on the ice, at 3:35 of the third period, reducing Vancouver's deficit to 3-1.
Henry's first goal of the playoffs brought the Giants to within a goal with six minutes remaining, but Backlund set up Duval's empty-netter to secure the Kelowna victory.
Guggenberger made 20 saves for the Rockets, while Sexsmith stopped 24 shots.