Although the Edmonton Oilers got the 3-2 win Saturday night thanks to Patrick Thoresen’s go-ahead goal in the third period, it was the Flames that were celebrating after learning earlier in the evening that they had clinched a playoff spot.
Leading 2-0, what had begun as a must-win game turned into a want-to-win game midway through the second period when the final score from Colorado was announced over the public address system: Nashville’s 4-2 victory eliminated the Avalanche, giving Calgary the eighth and final playoff spot in the West.
The announcement sparked an immediate ovation from the sell-out crowd of 19,289 and chants of “we want the cup” broke out in several sections of the Pengrowth Saddledome.
Flames captain Jarome Iginla admitted afterwards it probably wasn’t co-incidence that the urgency in the Flames play dropped off after that point with the Oilers finishing the game with three unanswered goals to claim the come-from-behind victory.
“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t,” said Iginla when asked if he was keeping an eye on the out-of-town scoreboard during the game. “I was curious but honestly, we were prepared before the game, expecting Colorado to win as they had been winning all their games. I saw it once and (Colorado) was up. Then I heard the crowd get pretty excited and you look up and to see that was a little surprising.”
Although he’s not pleased with the final outcome, Iginla was liked how the Flames performed in the game’s first 30 minutes when a playoff spot was still on the line.
“We had a real strong first half of the game and unfortunately we didn’t finish it,” said Iginla.
Tony Amonte and Marcus Nilson scored for Calgary (43-28-10). The Flames lost their third game in a row and will wrap up the season with a now meaningless game in Colorado Sunday night.
Ales Hemsky and Ladislav Smid also scored for Edmonton (32-3-7), which finishes up its worst season since 1995-96 on a winning note, snapping a stretch of six straight losses overall and a team record-tying nine straight defeats on the road.
“I know what it’s like when you make the playoffs, it’s a tremendous relief and the game wasn’t all that important for them after that, I’m sure,” said Edmonton coach Craig MacTavish. “Nevertheless, we played a good game.”
Over their final 20 games, Edmonton went a dismal 2-17-1 and was outscored 70-24.
“It’s nice to get a win in our last game, especially the way we’ve been struggling lately. We came out and we played a great, enthusiastic game and that’s one of the reasons why we won,” said Edmonton goalie Dwayne Roloson.
Edmonton began its comeback at 14:56 of the second when Hemsky finally snapped the Oilers team-record scoreless streak on the power play. Edmonton had gone 207 minutes and 44 seconds without a goal since Raffi Torres’ first period goal last Sunday.
The Oilers next goal took less than five minutes with Smid tying it 2-2 with 10 seconds left in the second. Thoresen’s game-winner at 11:16 of the third came on a give-and-go with fellow-rookie Danny Syvret.
Calgary can now look ahead to taking on the Western Conference’s top seed Detroit in the opening round of the playoffs.
“We’ve had some good games with them, they’re a very skilled team, big on puck control, and we had a good series with them a few years ago,” said Iginla.
Scoreless after the opening period, Nilson put the Flames into the lead 36 seconds into the second. The same line of Nilson, Amonte, and Stephane Yelle struck again eight minutes later with Amonte scoring his first goal in 20 games.
Notes – Calgary D Robyn Regehr (leg) was unable to play after getting hurt in the first period of Thursday night’s loss in San Jose. Inserted in his spot after being a healthy scratch the previous seven games was rookie Mark Giordano. Also unable to play for Calgary was RW Jeff Friesen (torso)… Edmonton’s power-play finished the season 4-for-67 over the final 20 games… Calgary finishes 30-9-2 at home, tied for its second best home record in franchise history. The top mark of 32-4-4 came in 1988-89, the year Calgary won its only Stanley Cup… 2001-02 is the only season that both Calgary and Edmonton have missed the playoffs.