Flames slide in back door

ERIC FRANCIS, CALGARY SUN

, Last Updated: 8:14 AM ET

The announcement came late in the second period of an exhibition game of sorts against the Edmonton AHLers.

Colorado 2, Nashville 4.

The Saddledome exploded.

The Flames had clinched a playoff spot.

Minutes later, the sad-sack Oilers scored their first of three straight goals to spoil the mood, handing the Flames a 3-2 loss.

And then it happened -- the hosts were booed off the ice, marking perhaps the first time in league lore a team was berated by the home crowd after clinching a playoff berth.

Nice way to wrap up Fan Appreciation Night and an otherwise stellar season at the 'Dome.

"That's okay -- obviously they weren't happy with the performance and that's their right to do that," said Craig Conroy in the midst of an otherwise silent dressing room.

"I thought the fans were great tonight -- they were trying to get us going at times we were a little down.

"But hey, if we play like that we know we're not going to win. We know that."

Told before the game the scoreboard would not show the Colorado result for fear it would affect the Flames play, Conroy said he was actually shocked and disappointed to hear the announcement.

"I'd rather they didn't," said Conroy, whose club was leading 2-0 at the time and holding a slight advantage in the play.

"For whatever reason, the momentum swung after that."

It sure did, which is a disturbing sign as far as captain Jarome Iginla is concerned.

"I think when everybody saw it, we weren't as sharp as we were before that. That's not the way we should be," said Iginla, whose club jumped on a charter flight to Colorado, where they likely arrived at around 3 a.m. to wrap up the schedule tonight.

"As professionals, it's not acceptable and we don't feel good about not being as good afterwards. It's bittersweet. One side of you is happy when you see (that the Avs has bowed out of the playoff race) but the other side has to realize we're still in a hockey game. At home, your last home game and you want to beat the Oilers. I'd sure feel a lot better if we won."

Did he watch the out-of-town scoreboard during the game?

"I'd be lying if I said I didn't," he smiled, breaking the tension in an otherwise solemn surrounding.

"I was curious but we went in expecting Colorado to win. It doesn't matter now... we have to be better."

Not only did the Flames back into the eighth and final playoff spot in the west with their third straight loss, they also face the hottest team in the league with little sleep tonight.

Regardless of the outcome, the bottom line is after a week of failing to clinch a post-season berth, the city can breath a little easier knowing they'll have a shot at redemption against Detroit, most likely starting Thursday.

We'll now get a chance to see if the club's stellar lineup can live up to expectations by beating a three-time conference-winning Wings club that has underachieved in each of the last two springs.

"We've been dwelling on so many negatives lately and we need to lighten it up," said Conroy. "It has just been negative, negative, negative."

Punctuated by boos.

Not the way the Saturday night party should have ended. But somehow not all that surprising either.


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