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Bennett, Hiller lead Flames past Canucks in Game 3

by Aaron Vickers /

CALGARY -- Calgary Flames forward Sam Bennett spent plenty of time while growing up imagining his first NHL goal. The scenario that took place on Sunday wasn't one that crossed his mind.

Bennett's first NHL goal stood as the game-winner and Jonas Hiller made 23 saves to lead the Flames to a 4-2 win against the Vancouver Canucks in Game 3 of the Western Conference First Round on Sunday.

"It's a moment that I've thought about for a very long time," said the 18-year-old, who suggested the puck would likely end up with his mom. "It definitely feels great to get it out of the way. I couldn't have dreamed a better situation. I'm so thankful for this."

Calgary leads the best-of-7 series 2-1 and will host Game 4 on Tuesday (10 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports) before the series returns to Vancouver for Game 5 on Thursday.

"When you don't play your best, you're usually going to lose," Canucks defenseman Kevin Bieksa said. "It's not like we played our best game and they just flat out beat us. We didn't play very well at all, and they played pretty good. That's the way the series goes. There's going to be ups and downs. We're down a game again, but we're looking for a split in Calgary, so we'll come back next game. We're a pretty resilient team.

"We're a lot smarter team. We've been through this before. It's not about pushing the other team around and outhitting the other team. That's not going to win the series in the long run. It's about executing, making plays, controlling your emotions - we did an excellent job of that last game. I don't think our emotions got the best of us tonight. They scored more goals than we did."

Bennett, the first Flames rookie to make his Saddledome debut in the playoffs since Brennan Evans in 2004, extended Calgary's lead to 3-1 at 2:14 of the third period by swatting a loose puck past a downed Eddie Lack.

At 18 years, 303 days old, Bennett became the second-youngest player in Flames history to score a playoff goal; only Jarome Iginla was younger (18 years, 297 days). Bennett also became the youngest player in NHL history to score a playoff game-winning goal in regulation. Three other players, Don Gallinger on March 21, 1943, Nathan MacKinnon on April 26, 2014 and Patrice Bergeron on April 9, 2004, have scored postseason overtime winners at a younger age than Bennett.

"You should have seen the smile on this kid's face on the bench after his first goal, but he brings so much," Flames coach Bob Hartley said. "He makes things happen out there. His speed, his determination … he's a special young man. He's just learning how to play our system and everything. I'm very impressed with Sammy."

With Yannick Weber serving a goaltender interference minor and Hamhuis called for a hit to the head of Bennett, the Flames' top line finally got on the board and put Calgary up 4-1. Working the 5-on-3, Sean Monahan capped a passing play set up by Russell and Johnny Gaudreau by beating Lack at 14:36.

"We want to get on the board and help our team win," Monahan said. "That was a little bit of an insurance goal there and 5-on-3, you have to find ways to score especially here in the situation we're in. In that situation where it's 3-1, you want that insurance and this time of the year that's when you've got to bear down and put the puck in the net."

Jannik Hansen's goal with 2:19 remaining in regulation and Lack on the bench for an extra attacker trimmed Calgary's lead to two goals and made Bennett's goal the winner.

The Flames didn't disappoint the full house at the Saddledome after a six-year intermission between home dates in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"It was unbelievable. Players were walking in before the game and they were already commenting on fans outside," Hartley said. "We were in the locker room and we could hear them. 'Go Flames Go'. It was unbelievable. We got on the ice. They were already fired up in the room and that momentum really carried us.

"Our fans gave us lots of energy."

Brandon Bollig didn't make them wait long. Mason Raymond's shot towards the Vancouver net was blocked by Canucks forward Derek Dorsett, but the puck skipped to an open Bollig, who fired a shot off the post and behind Lack for his first of the playoffs 6:35 into the game to give the Flames the lead.

Shawn Matthias responded for the Canucks at 9:09 with his first career playoff goal.

A partially blocked shot off the stick of Dan Hamhuis skipped in on Hiller and, after a scramble in the crease, Matthias swatted a loose puck over the goal line for his first career playoff goal to tie the game.

But TJ Brodie, with his first of the playoffs, restored Calgary's lead at 15:02 with a goal reminiscent of Kris Russell's Game 1 winner. After a heavy forecheck in Vancouver's end, Canucks forward Radim Vrbata couldn't clear the zone under pressure from Joe Colborne. Flames defenseman David Schlemko held the puck in and fed Brodie, whose shot through Bennett's screen beat Lack.

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