CALGARY – A three-goal game and a dominating win couldn’t begin to lift the spirits of Calgary Flames captain Jarome Iginla.
Iginla recorded his 12th career hat trick in Calgary’s 6-1 rout of the Edmonton Oilers, but it was all for naught as the Flames were officially eliminated from the Western Conference playoff race.
Chicago’s 4-3 overtime victory over St. Louis earlier in the evening put the Blackhawks out of reach, then Anaheim hammered San Jose 6-2 to ensure the Ducks couldn’t be caught.
“It’s tough. I really thought we were going to find a way to sneak in,” said Iginla, who has not made the playoffs in nine of his 14 NHL seasons.
The veteran Flames were a major disappointment in the season’s first half, which eventually led to the dismissal of general manager Darryl Sutter. Starting Dec. 23, the Flames turned their season around and Calgary has gone an impressive 27-11-8 since then.
But it won’t be enough.
“If only we would have started a little bit earlier, we would be in the playoffs. It’s certainly very disappointing,” said Flames forward Alex Tanguay, who had a goal and two assists.
Tanguay says he thought the Flames could have done some damage in the playoffs if they could have found a way in.
“If you get yourselves into the playoffs, it doesn’t matter who you face. Look at Philadelphia last year, they got into the playoffs on a shootout and they went all the way to the Stanley Cup finals,” Tanguay said. “It was a pretty remarkable stretch and the way we’ve been playing, I thought our chances were as good as anyone’s.”
Iginla led the surge, and the Flames captain has been on a tear with 12 goals in his last nine games.
“When we reflect back on it, it still doesn’t feel good today and it’s going to be very hard watching,” said Iginla, who moved into third in the league with 42 goals. “I know it’s hard for our fans and it’s hard for us as players, especially when the playoffs start on Wednesday and we’re out. That’s definitely the hardest time.”
Iginla’s impressive night and performance down the stretch drew praise from the young Oilers.
“He’s awesome. It’s been great to watch him,” said Oilers rookie Jordan Eberle. “Playing against him is great too. He’s just one of those special players that seems to make things happen any time he’s on the ice. He’s someone you try to pattern your game after.”
Rene Bourque and Curtis Glencross also scored for Calgary (41-29-11), while Mikael Backlund had three assists.
Magnus Paajarvi had the lone goal for Edmonton (25-44-11). The Oilers had entered the night winners of back-to-back games against the NHL-leading Vancouver Canucks.
Iginla’s first of the night came at 13:18 of the second, snapping a shot past Nikolai Khabibulin to put Calgary ahead 2-0.
Three minutes later, Iginla scored again by one-timing Tanguay’s cross-ice pass for a power-play goal to make it 3-0.
Iginla capped off his first three-goal game of the season at 6:47 of the third period, chipping in a backhand from the side of the net to make it 6-1.
As hats rained down at Scotiabank Saddledome, the crowd gave Iginla a standing ovation that eventually turned to chants of “Iggy, Iggy.”
“He was our leader and gave us huge goals night in and night out. A lot of what you saw down the stretch, he was our best player,” said Flames defenceman Mark Giordano.
It is the fourth time Iginla has surpassed 40 goals in his career and the first time he’s reached that mark since scoring 50 in 2007-08.
“He really stuck with it as the captain and as a leader and he’s grown as the season’s gone on too,” said veteran Flames defenceman Cory Sarich. “Iggy’s got lots of good years left in him still and I hope to be with him and get a crack at few more playoff games.”
Miikka Kiprusoff made 22 saves for the victory to improve to 37-24-6 on the season and tie Mike Vernon for the franchise lead in career wins (262). The 34-year-old could get a chance to move past Vernon on Saturday night when the Flames wrap up the regular season against Vancouver.
“We have a long way to go no question about that with being able to play with teams like Calgary who are knocking on the door as a playoff team,” said Edmonton coach Tom Renney.
Khabibulin had 41 saves for Edmonton to fall to 10-32-3.
“He had as many shots in the first 20 minutes as some guys see in a game. It’s a great performance by him and we left him alone far too often to his own devices,” Renney said. “All we needed to do is give him a forward’s stick and he might have been able to break the puck out himself too.”
With the loss, Edmonton clinched last place for the second consecutive year. It is the fifth year in a row out of the playoffs for the Oilers.
Notes: Flames C Greg Nemisz had an assist for his first NHL point. … Tanguay was stopped on a first period penalty shot. … C Daymond Langkow made his first home appearance since returning from a neck injury on the two-game road trip. … Flames D Jay Bouwmeester has yet to make the playoffs in his eight NHL seasons. … Khabibulin’s career mark against Calgary falls to 23-10-4., He is 1-4-1 versus the Flames since joining the Oilers.
Note to readers: Note to readers: this is a corrected story. A previous version misspelled ‘rout’ in the headline.