Canucks have experience, momentum

Updated: April 21, 2004, 2:31 PM ET
Associated Press

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- The Vancouver Canucks know all about playing in Game 7s. They hope that'll pay off against the Calgary Flames.

After getting even with a triple overtime victory early Sunday morning in Calgary, the Canucks returned home to host a Game 7 for the third straight series.

"Experience is a big factor," said Canucks forward Mike Keane, who will be playing his 10th Game 7 on Monday night. "Experience just gives you less shock."

That's good news for the Canucks, who only have two players without previous Game 7 experience. For most, the reference point is as recent as last season when the Canucks went the distance twice.

Vancouver won the first in the opening round, completing a comeback from a 3-1 series deficit to knock off St. Louis, then lost the decisive game in the conference semifinals to Minnesota after squandering a 3-1 series lead.

"We're going to take past experience and learn from it," Keane said. "It's a very basic game, a very simple game. Obviously, you want to go out and help your team and be a hero but on the same note you have to ease yourself into the game and make sure you're ready to play."

Defenseman Bryan Allen and rookie goaltender Alex Auld are the only Canucks who haven't played a Game 7.

"I better have my head around it, it's coming," said Auld, who will start for the third straight game. Auld got the nod over backup Johan Hedberg, who initially replaced No. 1 goaltender Dan Cloutier when he sprained his ankle in Game 3.

"I feel I've adjusted well and I've just got to go out and play my game, that's the biggest thing," Auld said.

The Flames only have eight players who have played a Game 7 before, but they do have some good recent experiences in Vancouver to draw upon. Calgary won two of three regular-season games there and two of the first three in this series.

"It's not about having success in Vancouver, it's about our team being successful on the road over the course of the whole season," Flames assistant coach Jim Playfair said Sunday. "Moving to the playoffs, we feel confident in our game plan that we can play with anybody in any building."

Calgary is trying to win a playoff series for the first time since 1989, when they beat Vancouver in Game 7 of the first round and went on to capture their only Stanley Cup title.

The Flames are 0-7 since 1991 when they have a chance to win a series. They looked tentative in the first 30 minutes of Game 6 and the Canucks jumped out to a 4-0 lead. Calgary rallied to tie it in the third period but lost when Brendan Morrison scored 2:28 into the third overtime.

"I think it's about going out there and laying it on the line," Playfair said.

Facing elimination for the first time, the Flames believe they got the nerves out of their system.

"The biggest thing is our first period, our first 10 minutes maybe," Flames forward Chris Clark said. "We haven't been matching their intensity, and it showed. We just have to get up and get going right at the beginning."

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press