Because Jim Peplinski hurt his hip in the first period Wednesday night, Calgary Coach Terry Crisp was forced to give more ice time to Brian MacLellan. And MacLellan tipped in Ric Nattress' shot with 14:41 to play, snapping a 1-1 tie and lifting the Flames into the Stanley Cup finals with a 3-1 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks.
"I'm the fourth-line left wing, no power play, no penalty-killing," MacLellan said. "I'm a pretty big guy and it takes me a while to get going. I need ice time. The only reason I got the time tonight is because Peplinski got hurt.
"It's a little frustrating. You want to contribute. Tonight was a great opportunity for me and I was fortunate to capitalize."
Joel Otto drew a faceoff back to Nattress at the point. Nattress' slap shot was about knee-high when MacLellan, skating in front of the net, got his stick on the puck and deflected it between the pads of goalie Alain Chevrier.
Crisp promised that MacLellan, a March 4 acquisition from Minnesota, would play more in the finals.
"He's just started to hit his stride," Crisp said. "He's got good hands for a big man. And from the blue line in, he's very dangerous with the puck. He's a big man in front of the net." Joe Nieuwendyk scored Calgary's other goals, including the clincher with 3:01 left as the Flames reached the finals for the second time in four seasons.
"I hope the other series goes seven," Nieuwendyk said. "We all need the rest. We could use the time to heal."
Said Crisp, whose club took the Campbell Conference championship series, 4-1, and has won nine of its last 10 playoff games: "If Philly and Montreal can keep banging away to a seventh game, all in overtime, it would help."
Calgary's only other appearance in the finals was in 1986, when it lost to Montreal in five games. The Flames want another shot at the Canadiens, who lead the Wales series, 3-2, going into Game 6 tonight at Philadelphia.
With 117 points, 51 more than Chicago, the Flames won the President's Trophy as the league's best team during the season. Calgary will have home-ice advantage during the finals, which will start Sunday if Montreal wins Thursday, or next Wednesday if Philadelphia forces a seventh game.