CALGARY – Much like their post-season push, the Calgary Flames came up a little short Saturday.
Christian Ehrhoff scored at 2:41 of overtime to lead the playoff-bound Canucks to a 3-2 victory over the Flames, capping off Vancouver’s best-ever regular season.
Vancouver trailed 2-0 entering the third but tied it on power-play goals from Alex Burrows and Ryan Kesler. The Canucks got the victory when Ehrhoff’s slapshot from the blue-line slipped through the pads of goaltender Henrik Karlsson.
“We won the game tonight, but at the end of the day it’s not going to mean anything, we’ve got to start focusing on the playoffs,” said Canucks coach Alain Vigneault. “As a player it’s challenging, you want to stay on the conservative side, but at the same time it’s like a hard practice, the best way to stay sharp and stay healthy is to do things the right way.”
Daniel Sedin had a pair of assists to clinch the NHL scoring race with 41 goals and 63 assists. Henrik Sedin won the scoring title last season. Sedin’s 104 points is the lowest total to win the Art Ross since Tampa Bay’s Marty St. Louis won it with 94 points in 2003-04.
Vancouver (54-19-9) finishes the season with a team-record 117 points. The playoffs begin on Wednesday but the Canucks will not know their first-round opponent until Sunday.
Jarome Iginla and Mikael Backlund scored for Calgary (41-30-11). The Flames missed the playoffs for the second season in a row. Since reaching the Stanley Cup final in 2004, Calgary has either lost in the first round or missed the playoffs entirely.
“Certainly tonight, the legs weren’t there. It was hard to find the motivation,” said Flames winger Alex Tanguay, who had an assist to finish second on the team with 69 points.
After playing desperate hockey for the past three-plus months, Calgary was officially eliminated from playoff contention Wednesday.
“It was tough, you could see on the guys before the game, through the periods, even on the bench, there wasn’t the same intensity,” Tanguay said. “We were playing for so much from Christmas on, it certainly was a big let down tonight.”
Tanguay, who rejoined the Flames signing a US$1.7-million, one-year deal last summer, is amongst several key Flames, who may have played their last game in Calgary. Other pending unrestricted free agents include Curtis Glencross, Anton Babchuk and the injured Brendan Morrison.
“As far as I’m concerned, I took a deal here because they told me they were going to give me a chance to play and I wanted to get back to a level that I thought I was capable of playing at,” Tanguay said. “I think I can still get better and I’ve got for four-five years until I’m 35 or 36. If I look after my body, I think I can play at a high level until that time.”
Iginla knows there are a lot of hard decisions this summer for the Flames front office to make, but he remains optimistic.
“In the last 50 games, I think our record is somewhere close to the top five teams in the league so as tough as this is, there’s more optimism than there was at the end of last year,” said Iginla.
It was a battle of the backups with Cory Schneider drawing the start for the Canucks against Karlsson.
Karlsson, who finished with 36 saves, was making his just his second start since Jan. 21.
Down 2-0, the visitors came out flying in the final period, cutting the deficit to 2-1 on Burrows goal at 2:02. The Canucks kept pressing and tied it on the power play at 11:05 as the Sedins combined to set up Kesler’s one-timer.
Schneider, whose record now sits at 16-4-2, made 34 saves for the win.
Schneider played his 25th game of the season, qualifying the rookie to get his name alongside Roberto Luongo’s on the William Jennings trophy, which goes to the team that surrenders the fewest goals against. Vancouver clinched the trophy for the first time, allowing just 183 goals.
“You always want to win your last game,” Schneider said. “For me, it might be the last one for a while, but I tried to make it feel like as if it were a playoff game and to bring that kind of intensity in competition.”
Notes: Vancouver D Dan Hamhuis (concussion) returned after missing five games. … Iginla’s goal gives him 1006 career points, tying him with Lanny McDonald for 75th on the NHL’s all-time list.