CALGARY – The Anaheim Ducks took a giant step towards securing a playoff spot by nearly extinguishing the flickering post-season hopes of the Calgary Flames.
Corey Perry scored his NHL-leading 45th and 46th goals and had an assist in Anaheim’s 4-2 victory over the Flames on Wednesday.
Perry pulled ahead of Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos in the goal-scoring race when he got a piece of Cam Fowler’s low point shot on the power play late in the first period. That goal broke a 1-1 tie and gave the Ducks a lead they would not relinquish.
“That was huge. They’ve only got a handful games left and it puts us up,” said Perry, who clinched the win with an empty-netter in the final minute. “We’re putting teams behind us now and we’re pushing forward and that’s what we’re trying to do.”
Lubomir Visnovsky and Bobby Ryan, with his 33rd of the year, also scored for Anaheim (44-28-5). The surging Ducks have won seven of its eight to move into sixth in the tight Western Conference.
Jarome Iginla, with his 37th, and Mark Giordano had the goals for Calgary (38-29-11). The Flames remain tied with Dallas for ninth in the West with the Stars holding three games in hand.
Calgary is three points back of the eighth-place Chicago Blackhawks, who have played two less games than the Flames.
“Obviously a disappointing loss,” said sombre Flames coach Brent Sutter. “We’re not quitting, we have four games to go here and you never know what can happen. But obviously losing tonight, our odds diminish.”
The Ducks win was not without controversy, as the Flames had a potential game-tying goal disallowed.
With 5:10 remaining in the second period and Anaheim hanging on to a 2-1 lead, Calgary’s Matt Stajan thought he tied it. The puck bounced off his shoulder and into the crease where it got caught up on top of Anaheim goalie Ray Emery and a couple of diving Ducks players crashing the net.
The Flames players celebrated, but there was no indication of a goal from the officials. It went to a video review that lasted over five minutes before the ruling on the ice was upheld, drawing a loud chorus of boos from the sell-out Scotiabank Saddledome crowd of 19,289.
“I am telling you it was in, that’s all I can say,” Stajan said. “It’s too bad they got it wrong but I guess video didn’t show it conclusively and the referee didn’t see it that way. It’s definitely a big turning point in that game because its an eight minute wait and momentum changed and they got one at the end of the period.”
Sutter said he thought he saw the puck go in but it was hard to say for sure.
“I’m looking at the screen just you guys are—does the puck look like it’s in, does it or does it not,” Sutter said. “The unfortunate part with that whole sequence was the call on the ice was no goal so Toronto (where the goals are reviewed) has to change the ref’s minds for what they can see on video and obviously they couldn’t see anything different.”
Four minutes later, Visnovsky made it 3-1 on a slap shot from the blue-line that deflected off Cory Sarich and passed a screened Miikka Kiprusoff.
“That was a big goal at the end of the period for sure, no question about that. Going up two goals going into the third was huge,” Perry said.
The Flames had a two-man advantage to start the third period, and Giordano at 42 seconds to get Calgary back within one.
But Calgary couldn’t get the tying goal past Emery, who continued his sensational return to the NHL, improving to a perfect 6-0. The 28-year-old has been spectacular since returning to the NHL after signing with the Ducks as a free agent in February.
“I’m fortunate. I know that a lot of things had to go right for me to even get a chance to play,” said Emery, who has given up five goals in four career starts against Calgary. “I’m grateful of every opportunity I get and I just take it as it comes, one step, one game at a time.”
Calgary, which unexpectedly got back into the playoff picture with a two-month surge, is 2-5-2 in its last nine games and all but eliminated from post-season contention.
“It’s easy to use that goal as an excuse and say that’s why, it was definitely one of those points that could change the game but that’s not the reason why we lost. I thought we took too many penalties and their power play was good against us again,” said Flames winger Tom Kostopoulos.
Iginla scored on the Flames first shot at 2:58. The Flames captain took Alex Tanguay’s pass and snapped a shot inside the far goal post.
After failing to convert a 47-second two-man advantage, Ryan grabbed a loose puck behind the Flames net and curled out front, tucking a shot inside the far post, to tie it 1-1 at 8:05.
Notes: Kiprusoff has given up 10 first period goals in his last five starts. … The Ducks used four different goalies in sweeping the four-game season series for first time. The Flames previous defeats were to Curtis McElhinney, now with Ottawa, Jonas Hiller and Dan Ellis. .. The Flames announced the signing of Finnish goaltender Joni Ortio, Calgary’s sixth round draft pick in 2009, who had been playing with TPS in the Finnish Elite League. He has joined the Flames AHL affiliate in Abbotsford.