'Nuck-out punch

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 3:52 PM ET


 VANCOUVER -- Calgary finally gets to party just like 1989.

 All the Stampede City's past playoff disappointments were finally laid to rest last night thanks to the thrilling 3-2 overtime victory over the Vancouver Canucks in Game 7.

 The victory not only clinched the Western Conference quarter-final best-of-seven series but advanced the Flames into the second round of the playoffs for the first time since the Stanley Cup championship run 15 years ago.

 Knowing what it would mean to the city was not lost on them, either.

 "It's a huge sense of pride," said defenceman Andrew Ference. "In this day in sports, you hear it's all (about) money.

 "But I'll tell you, when they showed on the TV in the change room the street in Calgary where the fans are celebrating and waving flags, the boys in here gave a pretty big cheer.

 "This is a very proud group of guys -- proud to make those fans and the city happy to be hockey fans. We feel in debt to the city for putting up with the losing seasons. We feel we owe ourselves and them success."

 They delivered, with former Canuck Martin Gelinas providing the game-winner on a powerplay 1:25 into overtime by shovelling a rebound past Alex Auld before the stunned sellout crowd of 18,630 at General Motors Place.

 "It barely made it in but they all count and, in the end, they don't ask how," said Gelinas.

 "Right before that shift, Ollie Saprykin said, 'You're gonna get a rebound,' and sure enough it came.

 "It was a good-feeling goal."

 Not in the other room, where the Canucks had their Stanley Cup dreams dashed much like so many Flames teams of the past.

 "They win on a horse---- call," spat Ed Jovanovski, who was in the penalty box when Gelinas tallied. "It's tough to swallow."

 Calgary will face the Detroit Red Wings, who won the Presidents Trophy, beginning Thursday night in the Motor City.

 While Gelinas was the hero, Jarome Iginla proved he has indeed elevated his status to a big-game player by tallying twice and assisting on the game-winner.

 Twice Iginla scored to put the Flames ahead -- once midway through the second period and then early in the third.

 But twice Matt Cooke drew the Canucks even, the second time coming with 5.7 seconds remaining in regulation time.

 Somehow, the Flames regrouped during intermission.

 "(The intermission) was one of relative calm and composure," said defenceman Robyn Regehr.

 "We discussed as players that we wanted to get the winning goal on the powerplay we had coming up.

 "It was a great job by those guys out there to do it."

 Since the Flames last reached the second round -- and that needed seven games to vanquish the upstart Canucks -- they've been bounced six times, three of which saw their playoff hopes dashed in Game 7 overtime losses.

 And that's on top of the seven consecutive seasons without post-season action which was finally snapped this year.

 "It's great for our players. It's great for our ownership and it's great for our fans," said GM/head coach Darryl Sutter.

 "They all deserve to win. It's that simple."

 In a moment of levity, Sutter didn't even bother to waste time looking forward to the high-powered Red Wings.

 "You've got to savour it," he said. "I may be half crazy but I'm not all crazy."

 Maybe not but a million others sure are.


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