VANCOUVER - The Calgary Flames are heading home and facing adversity for the first time in many of their young playoff careers.
The Vancouver Canucks staved off elimination Thursday with a 2-1 victory in Game 5 of their Western Conference quarter-final, forcing a Game 6 back in Calgary with the Flames holding a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series.
Calgary came into the game with unquestionable momentum after having outplayed the Canucks for most of its two home wins in Game 3 and 4.
But the Canucks played with desperation on Thursday and now the pressure is on the Flames to close out the series at home and avoid a dreaded return trip to the West Coast.
"We knew it was going to be a fight this series and we expect nothing less," said Flames defenceman Kris Russell. "They are a good team and they're not going to give up. We need to make sure we're ready for the next one."
The Flames opened the scoring early in the game when a Canucks turnover, resulting from Matt Stajan's hit on Alex Edler, found David Jones, who went high on Ryan Miller's glove side at 2:40. That quieted the crowd, as it appeared Calgary was going to pick up where it left off in Game 4.
But Vancouver's Nick Bonino tied the game midway though the second with a hard-angle shot from the faceoff circle that beat Jonas Hiller. Daniel Sedin scored the go-ahead goal early in the third when he shovelled in the puck after Dan Hamhuis threw it on net.
The Flames have been impressive at third-period comebacks this season, including the series opener when Calgary rallied with two goals in the final 20 minutes to beat the Canucks 2-1 in Vancouver.
In Game 5, however, the Flames couldn't repeat the magic.
"Once again, we're facing adversity but that's what we've done all year," said Calgary head coach Bob Hartley. "It's a situation that our young players have done well in. Our veterans are used to it, so it's up to us to prepare ourselves.
"We know our fans will welcome us once we get on the ice. It's going to be another great night."
Hiller finished the game with 41 saves in another impressive effort in the series. Hiller, one of the few playoff veterans on the young Flames squad, saw the learning potential in battling a desperate Canucks team.
"We know they are not just going to go away easy," said Hiller. "I think they played their best game. We weren't able to match that tonight, but I think we've proven that we always find a way to step it up to get better. And hopefully with the home crowd we'll be able to finish it off in the next game."
Game 6 is Saturday at the Scotiabank Saddledome.