April 1, 2012
Canucks end Flames' playoff hopes
By RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency
VANCOUVER - At least the Calgary Flames can go into the final couple of games without any pressure of making the playoffs.
Lord knows they buckled when the possibility of being part of the Stanley Cup tournament truly remained.
But after Saturday night’s 3-2 overtime loss to the Vancouver Canucks, combined with the Phoenix Coyotes’ 4-0 trouncing of the Anaheim Ducks, the Flames were officially eliminated from Stanley Cup contention.
According to the website sportsclubstats.com, the Flames had a 0.2% chance of making the playoffs before the day’s action and, after the Coyotes earned their win, had to claim a victory.
With the loser point, the Flames (35-29-16) can only reach 90 points, and either San Jose or Dallas will surpass that when they face each other Tuesday in the second half of their home-and-home series.
With the win, the Canucks (49-21-9) vault over the St. Louis Blues for top spot in the Western Conference and are tied with the New York Rangers for first place overall.
It’s too bad the Flames didn’t show the kind of spirit they had facing the Canucks in the past few weeks. Maybe they’d still be alive for the final week of regular season action.
Instead, it’s a third consecutive year on the outside after Andrew Ebbett deflected a point shot with just over a minute left in the extra frame and spoiled the return to action for backup goalie Henrik Karlsson.
Karlsson, who became the forgotten netminder down the stretch with the airlifting of Leland Irving for the odd start when No.-1 goali Miikka Kiprusoff needed a breather, started his first game since suffering a knee injury Dec. 4 in Vancouver.
The embattled netminder didn’t have the start he was was hoping for when Maxim Lapierre put the hosts on the board just past the five-minute mark to the delight of the Rogers Arena sellout crowd of 18,860.
Lapierre went to the net and held off the check from Olli Jokinen to whack a loose puck under Karlsson’s outstretched leg.
To their credit, the Flames — knowing a loss would officially likely spell the end of their playoff aspirations — regrouped and took the momentum.
That edge finally paid off early in the middle frame when Jokinen answered with a powerplay tally.
Although Jokinen didn’t get all of the puck with his one-timer of Jarome Iginla’s pass, it was enough to ring the inside of the near post and beyond Luongo.
Michael Cammalleri gave the visitors the lead just 51 seconds into the third period with another one-timer from the slot that took advantage of Luongo’s cross-ice moving abilities.
However, Marc-Andre Gragnani evened the game with just over eight minutes remaining in regulation with a long point shot that just made it between Karlsson’s arm and body to force overtime.
Karlsson came up with a couple of big saves in the extra period, especially a Dan Hamuis re-direction.
Karlsson once again failed to get his first win of the season and has a 0-4-2 record
The Flames return to action Thursday when they host the Canucks and meet the Ducks in the season finale Saturday.