VANCOUVER -- Breaking the seven-year playoff drought was huge.
Now comes the chance to end 15 years of first-round heartache.
Thanks to last night's 2-1 victory, the Calgary Flames return home with a chance to win their first playoff series since 1989, their Stanley Cup year.
Relying on a tried-and-true blueprint for success -- a Jarome Iginla game-winning goal and outstanding netminding from Miikka Kiprusoff -- the Flames scratched and clawed their way to a victory, giving them a 3-2 edge in the best-of-seven series. They can clinch tomorrow in Game 6 at the Saddledome.
"Man, the toughest game is yet to come," said Flames GM/head coach Darryl Sutter.
"They keep getting tougher. They're such a high-end team in terms of skill and our game is to try and shut those top guys down. Hopefully we can do it when we get home."
No doubt Flames fans will be louder than the stunned sellout crowd of 18,630 at GM Place, which watched Iginla pot the winner five minutes into the third period.
Iginla, parked in the high slot, deflected Andrew Ference's point shot that bounced past Canucks goalie Alex Auld as Martin Gelinas crashed the net.
Although the net lifted slightly, it was ruled a goal after a lengthy video review because the goal never became dislodged.
"They view those things, not only from upstairs but also from the National Hockey League," said Canucks head coach Marc Crawford. "I think the question was the net and we're confident they made the right ruling. They always do."
From there, the Canucks pressed for the equalizer but again they couldn't solve Kiprusoff when they needed to most.
In the one-sided third period, Kiprusoff make one stop after another, including a picturesque grab of a Mattias Ohlund cannon from the top of the circle and a last-second stop on Ed Jovanovski.
His shutout streak was snapped at 114 minutes and 50 seconds but Kiprusoff blocked 32 shots for the win, a dozen of those in the final frame.
"He's making all the saves and even those ones you don't expect," Iginla said. "We made him make too many saves."
Craig Conroy and Henrik Sedin traded second-period powerplay goals to set up the frantic finish.
Now the Flames have a chance to erase all those bad memories of years past.
Events like the blown 3-1 lead to the Canucks in 1994, or the upset at the hands of the San Jose Sharks.
"This is this year," Ference said. "Those years don't mean anything now. I kinda have a chuckle whenever they bring up those kind of stats because this team has nothing in common with those teams.
"We're our own identity. We're not looking at the past experiences ... because we've made an effort to change the identity of the Calgary Flames."
Seal the deal and it'll be complete.
"The key is not to let it go to your head," Ference said. "Don't go home and think, 'We've got a chance to win it.' It's really breaking the game down to its basics and going after one win."
One win to go!
RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun
, Last Updated: 2:45 PM ET