CALGARY, Alberta (AP) — With a chance to clinch in their grasp, the Calgary Flames stayed determined.
Down 3-0 early and 4-3 midway through the second period, they turned a switch and beat the Vancouver Canucks 7-4 on Saturday to take the series and advance to the second round of NHL playoffs for the first time in over a decade.
Calgary will face the Anaheim Ducks in the Western Conference semifinal.
Matt Stajan scored the winner at 15:43 of the third period to give the Flames a 4-2 series win.
“Things happen so quickly out there and even when I go home, I’ll probably blink my eyes and still have to pinch myself to realize what happened,” said Stajan. “That’s why we play the games. This is a special moment.”
Jiri Hudler and Michael Ferland each had a pair of goals including empty-netters in front of a delirious Scotiabank Saddledome. Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan also scored for Calgary.
The Flames last advanced beyond the opening round in 2004 when they reached the Stanley Cup final and lost in seven games to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
“What about the crowd?” Flames coach Bob Hartley said. “The crowd never left us. We were down 3-zip and we felt their support. What a great story.”
The Flames’ opponent, the Ducks, have had a few days rest already.
They rallied from a deficit to win all four games of their series against the Winnipeg Jets, capped by a 5-2 victory in the clincher on Wednesday night in Winnipeg. Anaheim led for less than 39 total minutes of the four-game series.
Michael Ferland and Jiri Hudler each scored twice, and Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau added goals for Calgary. Hudler tied it at 4 with a power-play goal at 6:14 of the third period.
Canucks coach Willie Desjardins gave the Flames all the credit on their comeback.
“They found ways all year and they found a way again tonight,” he said. “I’m proud of our guys. One hundred and one points this year was a good run.”
Luca Sbisa, Brandon McMillan, Jannik Hansen and Radim Vrbata scored for Vancouver. The Canucks had a 3-0 lead midway through the first period.
“We looked at this game as a must-win on home ice,” Monahan said. “We could knock them out and move onto the second round. We were still excited on the bench being down 3-nothing. We did whatever we could to push back and we found a way.”
Flames starting goalie Jonas Hiller was pulled early in the first after allowing two goals on three shots. Karri Ramo stopped 17 of 19 shots in relief. Ryan Miller made 28 saves in the loss.
Calgary’s fourth line of Stajan, Ferland and David Jones produced the winner. The Vancouver goalie made an initial save on Ferland, but Stajan banged in the rebound.
Vancouver scored three times on its first four shots. Hiller was replaced by Ramo after Vancouver’s second goal at 7:32 and Ramo gave up a goal on the first shot he faced.
Ferland scored late in the first, and Monahan and Gaudreau tied it early in the second.
Sbisa put Vancouver back in front midway through the period.
With McMillan in the box for goalie interference, Hudler pulled the Flames even in the third. He corralled Monahan’s deflection at the side of net and went backhand to forehand on Miller.
After Stafan gave the Flames the lead, Hudler and Ferland finished the scoring with empty-net goals.
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