CALGARY — Sam Bennett scored his first NHL goal in the Calgary Flames’ 4-2 playoff win over the Vancouver Canucks on Sunday.
Defenceman T.J. Brodie contributed a goal and an assist, with Brandon Bollig and Sean Monahan also scoring goals as Calgary took a 2-1 lead in Western Conference quarter-final series.
“Sammy, you should have seen the smile on this kid’s face on the bench after his first goal,” said Flames head coach Bob Hartley. “He makes things happen out there. His speed, his determination, he’s a special young man. He’s just learning how to play in our system, so I’m very impressed with Sammy.”
Goaltender Jonas Hiller made 23 saves for the Flames, who were hosts of an NHL playoff game for the first time since April 27, 2009.
Shawn Matthias and Jannick Hansen countered for the Canucks, with Eddie Lack stopping 23 shots in the loss.
Game 4 is Tuesday at Scotiabank Saddledome before the series returns to Vancouver for Thursday’s Game 5.
Bennett, 18, scored what turned out to be the eventual winner at 2:14 of the third period when he made it 3-1.
The fourth-overall pick in the last year’s NHL draft scrambled to the net on Joe Colborne’s sharp-angled shot and slipped the rebound by Lack.
“It’s a moment I’ve thought about for a very long time,” said Bennett.
It was Bennett’s first game at Scotiabank Saddledome since he saw action in a pre-season game Oct. 2. He underwent shoulder surgery later that month.
He re-joined the Flames in time to make his NHL debut and recorded an assist in Calgary’s regular-season finale. Bennett played in both playoff games in Vancouver.
With Canucks defenceman Yannick Weber serving a goaltender interference penalty and teammate Dan Hamhuis joining him in the box for an illegal check to Bennett’s head, Monahan scored his first NHL playoff goal on Calgary’s two-man advantage at 14:36.
“It was a pretty tight game. We were outshooting them going into the third,” said Canucks head coach Willie Desjardins. “We just took ourselves out with penalties in the third.”
Hansen pulled the visitors within two goals with a snap shot that beat Hiller at 17:41.
Calgary opened the best-of-seven series with a 2-1 win, but fell 4-1 in Game 2 at Rogers Arena. That second game in Vancouver ended with a line brawl and 132 minutes in penalties assessed.
The animosity re-surfaced in a scoreless second period Sunday with jawing, face-washing and shoving after whistles.
Calgary forward Johnny Gaudreau skated to the bench in pain after he was chopped across the arms by Hamhuis, but continued to play and assisted on Monahan’s goal.
Flames defenceman Kris Russell and Canucks forward Alex Burrows fought with a minute 25 seconds remaining, followed shortly after by a scrap between Calgary’s Michael Ferland and Vancouver’s Kevin Bieksa.
The hosts led 2-1 after the opening period on Brodie’s go-ahead goal at 15:02.
A ferocious forecheck and screens courtesy of the line of Bennett, Colborne and Mikael Backlund gave Brodie the time and space to tee up a slapshot from just inside the blue-line and beat Lack high stick side.
“We had some great zone time, we had some great pressure on their defencemen,” said Hartley. “We got lots of traffic on Lack, (who) seemed to have a hard time tracking the puck under traffic.”
Matthias pulled Vancouver even at 9:09. With Hiller spinning onto his back to make the initial save during a goal-mouth scramble, Matthias batted the puck into the open net.
Bollig scored the first goal of the game at 6:35 — his first since Feb. 2. Left unchecked in the high slot, he beat Lack with a high wrist shot stick side.
Mason Raymond, who was a healthy scratch the first two games of the series in Vancouver, assisted on that goal. Raymond is one of just five Flames with more than 20 games of playoff experience.