VANCOUVER — Kris Russell scored with 29.6 seconds left in regulation Wednesday as the Calgary Flames stormed back to beat the Vancouver Canucks 2-1 in Game 1 of their Western Conference quarter-final.
The defenceman’s shot from the point found its way through traffic after a dominant shift by the Flames that had the Canucks hemmed in deep.
David Jones had the other goal for Calgary, while Jonas Hiller stopped 29 shots in the Flames’ first playoff game since 2009.
Bo Horvat scored and Eddie Lack made 28 saves for Vancouver, which is back in the post-season after missing out last spring for the first time in six years.
“It was a good play to start off by our forwards,” Russell said. “They cycled the puck, they held onto it, they got guys to commit. When you’re defending it’s hard when guys are cycling and using their speed like that.
“I just tried getting it as hard as I could in a good spot and the guys did a good job in front of Lack. I don’t think he saw it.”
Game 2 goes Friday at Rogers Arena before the series switches to Calgary for Games 3 and 4.
“We just have to learn from the mistakes we made tonight and move on,” said Alexandre Burrows. “We’ll learn from it and get ready for Game 2.
“We did some good things too. They’re a good team over there and they made some plays.”
Horvat snapped a scoreless tie at 12:08 of the second period after Lack, who was making his first playoff start, made a couple big saves at the other end. The 20-year-old rookie had his first shot blocked, but his follow up on the backhand nicked off the skate of Calgary defenceman Dennis Wideman in front and past Hiller to send the crowd at Rogers Arena into a frenzy.
Calgary, which won 10 games when trailing after 40 minutes in the regular season and was tied for first in the NHL with 99 third-period goals, tied the game with 12:01 left in regulation after a soft play by the Canucks at their own blue-line. The Flames broke in on a quick 3-on-2 in transition, with Jones roofing a shot over Lack.
“Those guys are unbelievable,” Flames coach Bob Hartley said of his team’s ability to erase late deficits. “They always find a way.”
The goal came on the heels of a couple big saves by Hiller earlier in the period to keep his team within one.
Vancouver came in having not won at home in the playoffs since Game 5 of the 2011 Stanley Cup final against Boston, a span of six contests. The Canucks had also lost 10 of their last 11 playoff games overall dating back to Game 6 of the series with the Bruins.
“We didn’t win. I thought we played well enough to win,” said Henrik Sedin. “We made a mistake on their goal and after that we gave up a lot of 2-on-1s. That was something we talked about before this game and that’s something we have to look for. You can’t give up 2-on-1s one after another. That can’t happen.”
Vancouver came out hitting in the first period, with Ronalds Kenins throwing his weight around. The Flames, with a number of players making their playoff debuts, seemed to be back on their heels a bit in the early going.
Horvat and Burrows had good chances that Hiller managed to keep out, while Calgary rookie Sam Bennett — playing in just his second professional game — had his team’s best chance after cutting out of the corner before being denied by Lack.
“Very impressed,” Hartley said of Bennett’s play.
“We knew that the kid would come in with lots of grit. … He can skate, he’s a gritty player. He’s built for the playoffs.”