The Calgary Flames punched their ticket to the second round in a highly-entertaining Game 6 against the Vancouver Canucks in the Scotiabank Saddledome! The final score was 7-4, but in so, so many ways, that doesn’t begin to reflect how crazy this game actually was.
The Flames are off until Monday now, when they’ll begin to prepare to face the Anaheim Ducks in the Western Conference Semi-Finals.
If something could go wrong for the Flames in the first half of the first period. They generated a bunch of chances in the first couple minutes, but couldn’t bury anything and seemed to get a bit flat after the initial adrenaline dump. Then, just 2:36 in, the Canucks scored off a ginormous rebound from Jonas Hiller. A Chris Higgins shot was saved, but Brandon McMillan buried the rebound to make it 1-0. Following an uneven Flames power-play, the Canucks went in on a 2-on-2 rush; Calgary’s defenders got crossed-up, and Jannik Hansen scored with a wrister to make it 2-0. That spelled the end of Jonas Hiller’s night, but not the end of the onslaught: with Sam Bennett in the box for slashing, Radim Vrbata tapped in a gorgeous cross-zone pass from Daniel Sedin to make it 3-0.
It was 10 minutes of the most tentative, shaky Flames hockey I’ve seen all year: bad passes, bad penalties, bad defensive play and an inability to bury chances.
Michael Ferland scored late in the period off a turnover by Luca Sbisa to Matt Stajan, and Stajan’s pass found Ferland on an odd-man rush to make it 3-1 at the end of the first. Shots were 9-7 Calgary in the opening frame.
The second period was wild. Wild in the sense that Calgary was quite good in the offensive zone, when they got there, but still a bit sloppy in their own end. The good news is that the Flames tied up the game fairly rapidly. Just a minute into the period, off a Canucks icing Sean Monahan won a draw and went to the net. The initial chance by Hudler was stopped but Monahan knocked in the rebound to make it 3-2. A few minutes later, Jiri Hudler found Johnny Gaudreau at the side of the Canucks net with a gorgeous pass for the tap-in to tie it up at 3-3.
However, the shaky, shaky play continued. After the Monahan goal, the Flames began a period-long tendency of being completely, entirely unable to clear the zone. Yes, even when they had the puck on their stick. The Flames burned their time-out on one such instance, and they just kept doing it all period long. One such instance led to a tired bunch unintentionally screening Ramo, who was beat by a wrist shot with eyes from the point by Lusa Sbisa to make it 4-3. The Flames had chances to tie it up again, including a few on a power-play where they never really got a zone set up but kept creating chances off the rush. But alas, they went into the locker room down a goal after 40. Shots were 11-9 Calgary in the middle period of regulation.
The Flames began the third in much the same manner they spent the bulk of the second: in their own zone, trying desperately to muster a clean zone exit. However, they did end up generating some rushes. On one such rush, the physical play of the Hudler line generated a Nick Bonino penalty, which resulted in Calgary’s first power-play goal of the game – and the game-tying marker. Gaudreau had a scoring chance that Ryan Miller completely bit on, allowing Hudler to calmly roof the rebound to tie the game. The remainder of the period was back-and-forth, with the Flames finally breaking through five minutes left, as Matt Stajan jammed home a rebound following a Michael Ferland scoring chance to give Calgary a slim 5-4 lead. The Canucks pulled Ryan Miller and attempted to tie it up, but the Flames added a pair of empty netters – from Jiri Hudler and Michael Ferland – to skate away with a massive 7-4 comeback win at home.
Shots were 13-6 Calgary in the final frame (and 33-22 overall in favour of the locals).
WHY THE FLAMES WON
Because, like so many times this crazy season, the Flames simply kept coming at the Canucks. They did not play a complete 60 minutes, but they kept attacking and attacking the Canucks – both physically and with the puck – and wore them down over the course of the game.
By the time the game ended, the Flames were rolling four lines and two defensive pairings and outside of the top line, were completely content to grind the Canucks down to size and fight them in the muck.
Goodness, a lot of players did well.
- Karri Ramo came in and was rock-solid in relief.
- Matt Stajan was 59% in the face-off circle and scored the series-clinching goal.
- David Jones had three assists!
- Michael Ferland had two goals and three points!
- Sean Monahan had three points, as did Johnny Gaudreau!
Y’know what? Let’s go with Jiri Hudler, who had a pair of goals and a pair of assists and really sparked the top line.
THE GAME IN TWEETS
— Peter Klein (@primetimeklein) April 26, 2015
Wish we could graph the collective blood pressure spikes of the Flames + Canucks fanbases through two periods. Insane game of hockey so far.
— Thomas Drance (@ThomasDrance) April 26, 2015
— Ben Matchett (@BenMatchett) April 26, 2015
In a season full of improbable comebacks, might as well win a series with one too. What a tilt tonight. #Flames
— Pat Steinberg (@Fan960Steinberg) April 26, 2015
SUM IT UP
The Calgary Flames, who made the playoffs on a wing and a prayer, are off tomorrow. Then? They get ready for the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs and what’ll likely be another multi-game war with the very talented Anaheim Ducks.
We’ll have more breaking down this round and setting up the next match-up coming very soon.