(SportsNetwork.com) - The Calgary Flames will try to punch a ticket to the second round of the playoffs for the first time in over a decade when they visit the Vancouver Canucks for Thursday's Game 5 clash.
The Flames own a 3-1 advantage in the Western Conference quarterfinals after taking the last two games on home ice. Calgary outscored the Canucks by a combined 7-3 margin in those tilts at the Saddledome and are now one win away from advancing in the postseason for the first time since 2004.
"It's going to be a tough game in Vancouver so we've got to step up," said Flames goaltender Jonas Hiller after a 3-1 win in Game 4. "As long as we stay calm and play our game, we'll have a good chance."
Calgary halted a five-season playoff drought by finishing third in the Pacific Division, four points behind Vancouver. The last time the Flames won a postseason series was in the 2004 Western Conference finals against San Jose. Calgary then lost in seven games to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Stanley Cup Finals.
While the Flames are in the playoffs for the first time since 2009, Vancouver is making its sixth postseason appearance in seven springs. However, one more loss in this best-of-seven set would give the Canucks their third straight first-round exit since making it to the Cup Finals in 2011 when they lost to Boston.
All the offense in Game 4 came in the opening 20 minutes and Calgary was able to hold on for a 3-1 victory.
Rookie sensation Johnny Gaudreau gave the Flames a 1-0 lead with his first career postseason marker, scoring on the power play at 3:23 of the first period. The next two goals also came on the man advantage, as Henrik Sedin knotted the score for Vancouver at the 8:12 mark only to see Jiri Hudler give Calgary the lead for good just 48 seconds later.
Sam Bennett, an 18-year-old rookie, completed the scoring with the only even- strength goal of the contest. The fourth overall pick of the 2014 draft tallied with 41.3 seconds left in the first, giving him two goals and one assist through his first four playoff games.
Bennett, who made his NHL debut on April 11 in Calgary's final game of the regular season, has only been held off the scoresheet once in five games at the NHL level. That pointless outing came in Game 2 at Vancouver.
Hudler added an assist in the victory, while defenseman Dennis Wideman recorded a pair of helpers.
Hiller made 28 saves for the Flames. It was the 15th career playoff victory for the former Anaheim Ducks netminder.
While Hiller will go again for Calgary, Ryan Miller is expected to get his first start of the series for the Canucks. Eddie Lack started the first four games of this series, but was pulled after surrendering three goals on just seven shots in the first period on Tuesday. The veteran Miller was flawless in relief with 15 saves.
Miller was Vancouver's No. 1 option in net for most of 2014-15 before suffering a knee injury in mid-February. The 34-year-old returned to play in Vancouver's regular-season finale, but Lack was given the nod for the postseason after Miller was shelled for five goals in a loss against Edmonton on April 11.
"I just want to be ready and be an option if needed," Miller said on Wednesday's off day.
Vancouver has come back from 3-1 deficits to win a series three times in its history and the last occurrence was against St. Louis in the opening round of the 2003 playoffs. The Canucks also achieved the 3-1 comeback against Calgary in the 1994 conference quarterfinals. That also marked the last time the Flames held a 3-1 lead in the playoffs.
"The last one is the toughest one to win for them, so we'll focus on Game 5 with all the pressure on them," said Vancouver defenseman Kevin Bieksa.
If the Canucks can stave off elimination tonight, they will head back to Calgary for Game 6 on Saturday.
No matter how long the Canucks can survive they won't have forward Alex Burrows for the remainder of this series. Burrows was taken to a Calgary-area hospital after leaving practice Tuesday morning with an unspecified upper-body issue. He has been released from the hospital, but is still in Calgary and although head coach Willie Desjardins called the issue "nothing serious" he also said Burrows will not be available for the rest of this round.
This series marks the seventh postseason encounter between the clubs, but the first since the 2004 conference quarterfinals, won in seven games by Calgary. The Flames have won four of the six playoff encounters.