Hitmen in driver's seat

Calgary Hitmen Ryan Getzlaf celebrates a third period goal by Shaun Landolt against the Brandon...

Calgary Hitmen Ryan Getzlaf celebrates a third period goal by Shaun Landolt against the Brandon Wheat Kings during WHL playoff action on Wednesday, April 13, 2005. (Calgary Sun/Kevin Udahl)

SCOTT FISHER -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 9:20 AM ET

Like a stubborn diesel engine, it takes the Calgary Hitmen a while to get rolling.

But once the wheels start to churn, there's no stopping them.

Calgary overcame an early 1-0 deficit for the second time in as many nights and pushed the Brandon Wheat Kings to the brink of elimination.

Tyrel Lucas scored a pair, Riley Merkley contributed a sensational shorthanded goal and Shaun Landolt provided the frosting as the Hitmen beat Brandon 4-2 at the 'Dome last night.

The victory gives Calgary a 3-1 stranglehold in the Eastern Conference best-of-seven semifinal.

The Hitmen will have a chance to wrap it up tomorrow night at Brandon's Keystone Centre (6:30 p.m., The Fan 960, Shaw TV).

Hitmen captain Ryan Getzlaf, who had a pair of assists last night, said the team has shown no signs of panic, no matter the situation.

"Tonight was a prime example of us not coming with our best game, especially in the first half," Getzlaf said.

"But we found a way to win.

"You have to stay composed, take your chances when they're there and capitalize on them."

Lucas gave the Hitmen a 3-1 lead 8:31 into the final frame.

Brett O'Malley's shot hit traffic in front and laid at the side of the net where Lucas poked in the eventual game-winner.

The Wheaties refused to go quietly and responded immediately. Ryan Reaves took a long breakout pass and hit Derek LeBlanc on the fly. LeBlanc skated in and beat Justin Pogge to the blocker side just 20 seconds after Lucas's goal.

Landolt potted the insurance marker with 4:32 to play when he unleashed another heavy slapper past Plante.

Calgary outshot Brandon 27-19.

Brandon winger Lance Monych, who set a Wheat Kings franchise record by playing in his 62nd career WHL playoff game, got the visitors started at the 6:21 mark of the opening period. The 20-year-old spied a two-inch opening over Pogge's shoulder and roofed his seventh of the post-season on Brandon's first powerplay of the game.

Calgary's league-leading special teams went to work in the middle stanza, a period the Hitmen have dominated throughout the series.

Brandon managed to kill off the first infraction during a Hitmen 5-on-3 but couldn't finish the job.

Konstantin Pushkarev left a drop pass for Lucas, who squeezed a wrister under Plante's arm and across the line.

The Hitmen grabbed the lead at the midway point thanks to a major-league play from their captain. With his two linemates in the penalty box, Getzlaf fought off Steven Later at the Brandon blueline and busted up ice on a 2-on-1.

Getzlaf feathered a beautiful backhand feed in front to Merkley, who made a move back to the short side and slid the puck into the gaping cage.

Merkley credited Getzlaf for creating the highlight-reel goal.

"When you're going down the ice with Getz, you know the pass is going to be on the tape," Merkley said. "I just went to the net and all I had to do was pull it to the side and the goalie was out of it.

"It was a good feeling to get the shorthanded goal. It was a swing in momentum there."

The Hitmen, who held the Wheat Kings to three shots in the period, have outscored Brandon 8-1 in the second stanza during the series.

Merkley said his squad is looking to finish the Wheaties off in Game 5.

"We want to win the fourth one, obviously," Merkley said.

"We don't want to come back here with them having momentum."


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