SUN Hockey Pool

McElhinney on fire in Flames victory

RANDY SPORTAK, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:38 AM ET

Nothing to play for in the standings.

Nothing on the line in anticipation of the playoffs.

The only Calgary Flames player who really -- REALLY -- had something at stake in last night's season finale was back-up goalie Curtis McElhinney.

He finally found the winning formula.

McElhinney backstopped his team to 4-1 win over the Edmonton Oilers to earn his first career victory, in what will likely be his last action of the season.

His reward, other than a commemorative puck and riding his record of the goose egg, was a shaving cream pie when providing a TV interview.

When he met the rest of the media, he was reminded some foam was still in his ear.

"I'm sure it's in a lot of other places, too. It feels good. Well, other than my eyes are burning a bit," said the hometown product. "It felt great, and I'm so happy to get it."

Hopes of claiming first place in the Northwest Division were laid to rest before the Flames even took to the ice -- the 13-point lead they had just over two months ago erased completely thanks to their struggles down the stretch.

The Vancouver Canucks' overtime win over the Colorado Avalanche in the afternoon ensured the Flames will face the Chicago Blackhawks to open the playoffs, a best-of-seven series expected to begin Thursday in the Windy City.

That meant two goals to shoot for against the Oilers: Winning to build some confidence, and earning McElhinney his first victory.

Well ... that and not losing any more players, considering they were again forced to play with only 15 skaters and have nine players on the shelf.

"Definitely disappointed we didn't win the division," said Flames captain Jarome Iginla. "It feels like it got away from us, but after that, you move on. (Last night), I think everyone was focused on trying to get Mac his first win.

"That was probably the biggest focus."

When the final buzzer came, McElhinney was able to enjoy the spotlight that's eluded his five previous starts this year.

"He battled and played a great game," said Flames veteran Craig Conroy. "You just need to break that bubble. He was taking a lot of shots at the end from the boys, but we were happy for him.

"That will give him a lot of confidence."

McElhinney received a standing ovation from the Saddledome sellout crowd of 19,289 at the end of the second period after coming up with highlight-reel saves on Ales Kotalik and Denis Grebeshkov, whose offering came just before the buzzer.

"Huge saves, but that's what we've seen all year in practice," Conroy said. "People just haven't got to see it because he doesn't play many games."

His biggest stop came early in the third, a breakaway save on Ethan Moreau, after which the Flames padded their lead.

That ... was a big one for me," McElhinney said. "It was a nice way to get the powerplay going a little bit."

Michael Cammalleri scored twice to give him a team-best and career-high 39 goals on the season, while Conroy and Jamie Lundmark added singles for the Flames (46-30-6).

"It was important to get that win because you can prepare with a positive attitude now," Cammalleri said. "That's huge. It'll make this week better -- we'll hold our heads higher and be more confident in our preparation."

RANDY.SPORTAK@SUNMEDIA.CA


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