Less than 72 hours after beating Vancouver in triple overtime in Game 7 of their first-round series, the Flames hung on against the rested Red Wings and rallied for a 2-1 victory on Marcus Nilson’s first playoff goal at 2:39 of overtime.
The Red Wings, coming off four off days, outshot Calgary 13-2 in the first period Thursday night. They understand what they are up against in Game 2 of the best-of-seven series Saturday night at Joe Louis Arena.
“They’re up 1-nothing, so it’s up to us to respond,” Detroit center Kris Draper said. “We’re not going to get caught up in the underdog role.
“They had 94 points … I mean, that’s playing some tremendous hockey from start to finish. … To win the way they won that (Vancouver) series, everyone stepped up and battled back. It’s up to us to step up and raise our level of play.”
Calgary’s Jarome Iginla, a finalist for the Hart Trophy, awarded to the league MVP, was shadowed throughout Game 1 and managed just two shots. But he turned out to be an effective decoy for the Flames, who got 28 saves from Miikka Kiprusoff and stopped Detroit on six power-play chances.
“Guys chipping in everywhere is huge for this team,” Calgary center Craig Conroy said. “We’re not relying on just Jarome to score, or one line. We’re relying on 20 guys to chip in wherever possible.”
Iginla, an eight-year veteran, said he was excited to be playing alongside young defensemen like 24-year-old Mike Commodore, 23-year-old Jordan Leopold and 24-year-old Robyn Regehr, who scored Calgary’s first goal in the series opener.
“It’s part of the benefit of the years of rebuilding and sticking with it,” Iginla said. “You know, at times, it was tough as a group, not winning games and, I’m sure, for fans. Now, I think we have one of the best, if not the best, young defensive groups, guys who can really punish other teams’ forwards.
“It’s a great combination and it’s only going to get better.”
Detroit coach Dave Lewis wasn’t surprised by the Flames’ defensive showing, despite short rest.
“That’s the way they play,” Lewis said. “I think this time of year, there’s not a lot of room out there. You have to find ways to penetrate (and) you’ve got to get some opportunities. We gave ourselves a chance to win, but we didn’t win because we didn’t capitalize on those opportunities.”
Calgary reached the playoffs for the first time since 1996 with a team that averages just under 27 years of age. The Red Wings, winners of three Stanley Cups in that time frame, are making their 14th consecutive postseason appearance—this time with a squad with an average age of 32.
Flames coach Darryl Sutter believes energy trumped experience, at least in Game 1.
“I don’t think experienced teams always win every year,” he said. “The experienced player doesn’t always have the most success. We don’t get caught up in that experience thing at all. We’re a much better team when we just concentrate on ourselves.”
Red Wings forward Ray Whitney said the Flames are quickly learning how to perform in the postseason.
“You go into overtime, it’s one break, one bounce,” he said. “They capitalize, they work hard, they’ve got a guy in the nets who gives them a chance to win every night. They believe in him and he believes in them, and that’s hard to go up against.”