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First Round

Mangiapane has memorable playoff debut with Flames

Rookie gaining confidence heading into Game 2 against Avalanche

by Dave Stubbs @Dave_Stubbs / NHL.com Columnist

CALGARY -- It's a tradition as old as the NHL itself: A player's milestone first goal will for generations be remembered in reverential tones, recalled as an end-to-end rush, deking through everyone on the opposition to finish with a shot going top shelf over a sprawling, hapless goalie.

That the puck might, in fact, have deflected into the net off said player's posterior as he was being belted to the ice is just an inconvenient fact.

But 50 years from now, Andrew Mangiapane can regale his grandchildren with true stories -- and video -- of his first Stanley Cup Playoff goal because it truly was a classic.

 

[RELATED: Complete Flames vs. Avalanche series coverage]

 

It was Mangiapane's ice-breaking goal at 14:25 of the second period on Thursday that proved the winner for the Flames in a 4-0 victory in Game 1 of the Western Conference First Round against the Colorado Avalanche at Scotiabank Saddledome.

Game 2 of the best-of-7 series is here on Saturday (10:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVAS, SN, ALT).

On Friday, Mangiapane was still a little thunderstruck by his goal, rewarded for an opportune plunge into a battle on the wall and a hard drive into the dirty ice in front of Avalanche goalie Philipp Grubauer.

"I've watched it a couple times," Mangiapane said. "It was a good shift by our line. I just wanted to get to the middle of the ice and I'm just happy it went in. I kind of blacked out when it did."

Video: COL@CGY, Gm1: Mangiapane scores beauty for Flames

The 23-year-old left-winger's modesty was refreshing.

It was Mangiapane (5-foot-10, 184 pounds) who pounced to dig the puck off the wall with teammate Garnet Hathaway and Avalanche defenseman Erik Johnson scrambling for it, then steamed along before cutting out below the hash marks, wheeling in front of the net. He then split Avalanche defenders Nikita Zadorov and Tyson Jost, dropped to one knee and slid past the goal to get surprisingly good backhand velocity off the heel of his stick, beating Grubauer.

"He's a real good player who continues to go to the hard areas as an undersized guy," Flames coach Bill Peters said of Mangiapane. "It's important when you're that size. Don't stay on the perimeter and you can forge a career in the National Hockey League. He won a battle on the wall and took it hard to the net. You've got to go to the net and get seconds and thirds (rebounds). He's a tenacious guy, he's willing to get to the net. He's willing to play on the inside."

Mangiapane's challenging path to the NHL is well charted. Calgary selected the Toronto native in the sixth round (No. 166) of the 2015 NHL Draft. Having scored 118 goals over three seasons with Barrie of the Ontario Hockey League, he made his NHL debut Dec. 31, 2017, then bounced back and forth between Stockton of the American Hockey League and the Flames until he arrived in Calgary, presumably for good, in December.

"A draft is a funny thing," Peters said Friday. "All a draft is is an opportunity. It doesn't matter what round, if you're a free agent or coming out of the NCAA or major junior or from Europe. If you get signed by an organization, the hard work begins. That's the way you should look at it."

Mangiapane had 13 points (8 goals, 5 assists) in 44 games this season.

Video: CGY@LAK: Mangiapane goes five-hole on Quick

"Every game I keep growing and play with more confidence," he said. "Slow production off the start for me. I wasn't used to that but if I kept working hard, good things would happen."

Mangiapane made his playoff debut Thursday, as did six teammates, including linemates Hathaway and Derek Ryan. He admitted to having a few nerves.

"But after the first couple shifts, I started calming down and we started playing more of our line game," he said. "A little bit nervous but I think it was more excitement. I was eager to get going."

The unassisted goal brought Calgary's so-called C of Red out of their seats with a tumultuous ovation, and less than five minutes later, Matthew Tkachuk made it 2-0 with a power-play goal. Late third-period goals by Mikael Backlund, with the man-advantage, and Tkachuk again, into an empty net, completed the scoring.

Mangiapane said he had no idea where his milestone puck has disappeared to, wondering in jest whether someone hadn't already put it up for sale on the internet. (A Flames spokesman said the puck was retrieved and is safe.)

His parents, his girlfriend, a sister and her fiance were in the building when he made personal history Thursday, though he had no idea where in the arena they were sitting.

"They kept it short and sweet," he said with a grin of the message he later received from his parents. "They said, 'Good game.' They don't want to make my head too big."

Mangiapane said he received 10 or 20 text messages from friends and family, and a few former coaches, with his Instagram and Twitter accounts "kind of blowing up."

But on Friday, playoff goal No. 1 was already well behind him, his sights set on Game 2 with a game of postseason experience.

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