The Calgary Flames’ impressive playoff run finally flickered out Wednesday night, ensuring Canadian content will be at a premium when the post-season gets underway.
Captain Jarome 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.
“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.
With Toronto’s elimination from the Eastern Conference playoff picture on Tuesday, only one Canadian team from each conference will be playing for the Stanley Cup: the first-place Vancouver Canucks in the West and the Montreal Canadiens in the East.
That’s down from last year, when three Canadian teams qualified. This year, the Ottawa Senators will clean out their lockers early along with Toronto, Edmonton and Calgary.
Calgary was eliminated then it couldn’t get any help despite it’s big win. Chicago’s 4-3 overtime victory over St. Louis earlier in the evening put the Blackhawks out of reach, then Corey Perry scored a hat trick, including his 50th goal, as Anaheim hammered San Jose 6-2 to ensure the Ducks couldn’t be caught.
Elsewhere in the NHL it was: New Jersey 4 Toronto 2; Los Angeles 3 Phoenix 2 (SO); Carolina 3 Detroit 0; Washington 5 Florida 2; and Boston 3 New York Islanders 2.
At Calgary, Alex Tanguay had a goal and two assists while Rene Bourque and Curtis Glencross also scored for Calgary (41-29-11). Mikael Backlund added 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.
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,” Tanguay said.
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.”
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.
At Anaheim, Calif., Corey Perry capped his third career hat trick with his NHL-leading 50th goal during a dynamic four-point performance, and the Ducks kept pace in a tight playoff race with a rout of San Jose.
At Chicago, Jonathan Toews scored at 3:19 of overtime, moving the Blackhawks within two points of a clinching a playoff spot in the Western Conference.
At Newark, N.J., Ilya Kovalchuk scored his 30th goal and added an assist to lead New Jersey over Toronto.
At Los Angeles, Kyle Clifford had the tying goal late in the second period, Jarret Stoll also scored and Los Angeles clinched its second straight playoff berth.
At Raleigh, N.C., Cam Ward made 42 saves for his second shutout in a month, and Carolina beat Detroit to remain alive for a playoff spot.
At Washington, Mike Knuble and Jason Chimera scored power-play goals in the first period and the Capitals closed in on top seed in the Eastern Conference.
At Boston, Dennis Seidenberg and Gregory Campbell scored in a 78-second span in the second period and the Bruins moved within two points of the second playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.