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Flames rally to win Game 6, eliminate Canucks

by Aaron Vickers / NHL.com

CALGARY -- Fittingly, the Calgary Flames pulled off another third-period comeback to extend their season and escape the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time in 11 years.

The Flames erased an early three-goal deficit and defeated the Vancouver Canucks 7-4 in Game 6 of their Western Conference First Round series at Scotiabank Saddledome on Saturday. They advanced to the second round of the playoffs for the first time since 2004 and just the second time since winning the Stanley Cup in 1989.

"I don't know what to say," said Flames forward Matt Stajan, whose goal with 4:17 remaining broke a 4-4 tie. "We found a way. A win's a win this time of year. To eliminate a team like that, it's not easy.

"We persevered through. We're able to move on."

The Flames, who won the best-of-7 series 4-2, will face the Anaheim Ducks in the Western Conference Second Round.

"This season, the season is way bigger than the game," Flames coach Bob Hartley said. "From Day 1 of camp, what we invested in those players, the way those players represented not only this great organization but also this community. They never stop. They never stop. Our players are role models. I have so much respect for my group.

"I have to say that in my book, this team ranks as probably one of the most enjoyable bunch of athletes to work with. Not only are they great hockey players, they're great athletes, but they're unbelievable human beings.

"I think that looking at my team, looking at this community, I'm having lots of fun."

Vancouver coach Willie Desjardins was complimentary in defeat.

"You have to give them credit," Desjardins said. "They found ways all year, and they found a way again tonight. I'm proud of our guys; 101 points this year was a good run. I thought our fans were great, we wanted to get back there for a Game 7 because they've been so good, they deserved a Game 7. It just didn't go our way.

"I knew coming in it was going to be a hard series, and leaving I knew it was a hard series. I think the games were there, we just didn't quite seize it to get it."

Stajan, 31, gave the Flames their first lead of the game with the first playoff goal of his career.

After Ryan Miller couldn't handle David Jones' initial shot cleanly, Stajan lifted Calgary's second rebound opportunity over the shoulder of the Canucks goaltender and into the top corner to put Calgary ahead 5-4.

"It felt great," said Stajan, an 11-year veteran who has played all of nine postseason games. "We scored it and the first thing that came to my mind was we still have five minutes here to finish them off. Looking back now and sitting back, it's so special. It's been such a tough year for my family and this team has been great all year. We found a way and we found a way tonight and to be a part of this, it's amazing."

Hartley suggested the goal was a reflection of his upstart squad.

"You look at the winning goal, it's the Calgary Flames," he said. "That's the way we do business. That's the way that we've cultivated our identity three years ago. We still have a long way to go to climb the mountain but I'm so proud of those guys. Everyone showed up. We were blocking shots. We tied the game. They got the fourth one. We still kept going and then in the third period we were who we are -- a bunch of young guys that go and no fear and we don't care. We always find a way to get it done."

A poke check by goaltender Karri Ramo on Daniel Sedin, who was in alone, led to Jiri Hudler's second of the night, an empty-net goal with 28.4 seconds. Michael Ferland, with his second of the game, added another into the empty net with 2.1 seconds remaining to complete the win.

"Best feeling ever. Best ever," Ferland said. "I don't even know how to describe it."

The late outburst capped another Calgary comeback.

The Flames trailed early after Vancouver scored the fastest three goals from the start of a playoff game in franchise history to take a 3-0 lead at 9:42. But Ferland trimmed Vancouver's lead to 3-1 late in the first period, and Calgary's top line of Sean Monahan, Johnny Gaudreau and Hudler completely erased it in the second, scoring twice in a span of 4:33 for their first even-strength goals of the series.

But Luca Sbisa, with the first goal from a Canucks defenseman in the series, put Vancouver ahead midway through the period by beating Ramo through a screen. Vancouver took the 4-3 lead off the ice at the second intermission.

The Flames, who were third to Anaheim (12) and the Detroit Red Wings (11) in victories when trailing after 40 minutes in the regular season and added another in Game 1 in Vancouver, came up with one more comeback thanks to their top line.

With Vancouver's Brandon McMillan in the penalty box for interference, Monahan couldn't redirect Gaudreau's slap-pass on net, but Hudler fished the puck from below the goal line and beat a downed Miller to tie the game at 6:14 of the third.

That goal accounted for three of the trio's 10 points in the game. The line entered Game 6 having combined for a total of seven points through the first five games.

"I don't think anything was said," Monahan said. "We understand the situation we were in, and we looked at this game like it was a must-win. It's on home ice and we could knock them out and move on to the second round. We were still excited on the bench when we were down 3-0 and we wanted to win. We did what we could, pushed back and found a way."

After Calgary opened the scoring early and went on to win Games 3 and 4, Vancouver got the jump this time with McMillan burying a rebound in the slot off an initial shot from Chris Higgins at 2:36 to put the Canucks ahead.

They were the Canucks' first shots on Jonas Hiller.

Vancouver struck again with goals from Jannik Hansen at 7:32 and Radim Vrbata at 9:42. Hansen's goal chased Hiller, who made one save on three shots. Vrbata's goal came on the first shot against Ramo.

"When you coach a group of athletes that believe, you get crazy games like this one," Hartley said. "Look at the scoreboard - it was 3-0, there was nine minutes gone in the period and guys were still saying, 'There's plenty of time, let's get the next one. Those guys are just amazing. And what about the crowd? The crowd never left us. When we were down 3-0 we felt, still, their support. What a great story."

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