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Flames stun Canucks on Russell's last-minute goal

by Kevin Woodley /

VANCOUVER -- Trailing by one goal going into the third period of the franchise's first Stanley Cup Playoff game in six years, there was no sense of panic inside the Calgary Flames' locker room.

The young Flames may be short on playoff experience, but they have plenty when it comes to third-period comebacks this season.

David Jones tied the game 7:59 into the third and defenseman Kris Russell scored the winner with 29.6 seconds left in regulation to lead Calgary to a 2-1 win against the Vancouver Canucks in Game 1 of the Western Conference First Round at Rogers Arena on Wednesday.

"We just find another gear in the third," said Jones, who is from nearby North Vancouver. "I'm not sure what it is; we just kind of buckle down. I think because we've done it so much this year we kind of get the ball rolling and it's just got better and better all season. We're definitely not uncomfortable in that spot."

After taking control of the game during the final four minutes of regulation, the Flames finished a dominant late shift in the Vancouver end by getting the puck back to Russell at the point. His shot beat goalie Eddie Lack low on the glove side through the screen of rookie Sam Bennett, giving the Flames a win in their first playoff game since 2009.

"That's the kind of style you've got to play in the playoff," Russell said, "Just get pucks to the net and hopefully they go in."

Rookie center Bo Horvat opened the scoring for the Canucks midway through the second period, but Calgary showed why it excelled in the third period during the regular season. The Flames won 10 games when trailing after two periods and were tied for the lead in third-period goals with 99.

They got No. 100 after goaltender Jonas Hiller made four great saves to keep it 1-0. Hiller made a flashy glove save off Daniel Sedin in the opening minute, a right-pad robbery from the slot two minutes later, and gloved Christopher Tanev's rebound chance in the slot.

"They had a few pretty good chances early in the third, and if they score [the] game might be over," said Hiller, who made 13 of his 29 saves in the third period. "Those are the saves you want to make. They can shift the momentum and I think that's what happened."

Jones tied it after the Canucks turned the puck over just outside their blue line and Calgary tagged up quickly to create a 3-on-2. Michael Ferland passed back to Jones, who was making his NHL playoff debut, for a wrist shot from the slot past Lack's glove.

"Nothing rattles us. We stay composed and keep our focus, and in the third period we could feel it on the bench," Flames coach Bob Hartley said. "The boys were even commenting: 'Boys we're coming, we're coming.' We felt we were gaining momentum, and as soon as Jones scored I felt we had another gear and we kept pressuring."

Canucks coach Willie Desjardins stuck with his balanced, four-line program, with every player seeing at least 12:46 of ice time and only defenseman Alexander Edler with more than 22 minutes. But it was the Flames, who had three forwards with less than eight minutes of ice time and top defensemen Dennis Wideman and Russell near 30, who took over late.

"I don't think they looked fresher," Desjardins said. "I thought we opened up when we didn't need to and they got a couple outnumbered rushes because of that, and that's where they looked like they were quicker. They are a team that does think they are going to do well in the third, and we have to capitalize on that."

Instead it was the Flames, who had seven players making their NHL playoff debut, who capitalized late. Bennett, an 18-year-old who made his NHL debut in the final game of the regular season, had Calgary's best chances early and set the screen on the winning goal.

"There was a huge momentum change when we scored that tying goal," said Bennett, who was picked fourth in the 2014 NHL Draft but missed most of the season after shoulder surgery. "We drew so much energy. We pretty much dominated the latter half of that period."

Lack made 28 saves in his NHL playoff debut for the Canucks, who were back in the postseason after missing for the first time in six years last season. Vancouver is 0-7 in home playoff games since Game 5 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final and has only one victory since losing Game 7 of that series to the Boston Bruins.

"I feel like Hiller made one more save than me and that was kind of the difference," Lack said. "You're never happy when you don't win you have to get back on the horse [Thursday] and get back at it."

Game 2 of the best-of-7 series is Friday in Vancouver (10 p.m. ET; CNBC, CBC, TVA).

"We've been great for bouncing back in the past," Horvat said. "We missed some opportunities we should have capitalized on. I could have a couple more. We had tons of shots on net. We had great opportunities to put the game but they kept coming."

Horvat, who turned 20 on April 5, opened the scoring 12:08 into the second period. His initial shot from the top of the right circle hit a crowd in front, but Horvat got to the rebound and threw a backhand towards the net that bounced off the heel of Wideman's skate and deflected between Hiller's legs.

"It was kind of a fluky one," Horvat said.

For a while it looked like Lack would match Hiller, but after robbing Flames rookie Johnny Gaudreau with the glove on a 2-on-1 with two minutes left, he couldn't glove Russell's shot through traffic.

"We talked about how we can't let those point shots through," Desjardins said. "They had a few that got through and that last one was a big one. … They got us tired in our end and pushed and we had a couple one-on-one battles we didn't win. We had it a foot from the blue line and didn't get it out."

Hartley praised Joe Colborne for his work to keep the play alive before changing, and Bennett for setting the screen on the winning goal.

"Very impressed," Hartley said of Bennett. "He can skate. He is a gritty player. He is built for [the] playoffs."

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