tOO LittLe TOO LATE
Iginla roasts Oilers with four-point night, but it matters not
Jarome Iginla conceded defeat in the quiet of the Calgary Flames dressing room. “I really thought we were going to find a way to squeak in,” the captain said softly. “In sports, you find a lot of weird things can happen.”
The dream of qualifying for the post-season — in spite of a brutal start to the regular season — officially died Wednesday night on the out-of-town scoreboard.
The Flames took care of business by knocking off the Edmonton Oilers 6-1. But the Chicago Blackhawks pulled out a 4-3 victory in overtime over the St. Louis Blues and the Anaheim Ducks whipped San Jose 6-2.
With their respective wins, the Hawks and Ducks have 95 points each. Both teams own the tiebreaker on the Flames. So even with a Calgary victory Saturday over the Vancouver Canucks, even if the Ducks, Hawks and Dallas Stars — with three games left and 91 points — fall flat the rest of the way, the Flames can’t leap into the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Call in the medical examiner. The time for an autopsy has arrived.
“It’s going to be very hard watching,” Iginla said. “I know it’s hard for the fans and hard for us as players. Especially when the playoffs start on Wednesday. That’s definitely the hardest time.”
Give the Flames credit for manning up and dominating the Oilers under the toughest of circumstances. They knew as the night went on how badly things were shaping up elsewhere around the league. But they still pounded the Edmonton net with 47 shots in their most dominant performance of the year.
In Chicago, the Blues staked out a 2-0 lead on the Hawks. But then Marian Hossa got the Hawks on the board with a goal that led to comparisons to some of the world’s top soccer players — including Pele — on Twitter.
Suffice to say there was a kicking motion involved, but the NHL war room (after a lengthy review) let it stand.
“Referee on ice had good goal,” Mike Murphy, the NHL’s vice-president of hockey operations said via e-mail. “We had to prove him wrong. We were not able to over-rule him. We were inconclusive.”
Alex Tanguay saw that goal on TV in the dressing room just before taking to the ice.
“I don’t know how that puck went in,” Tanguay said. “It was a kick. That turned around the game. It was 2-0 at that point for St. Louis. You look at the goal we had disallowed against Anaheim and then you look at that goal . . . you wonder if the hockey gods are on our side. It sucks. That’s our situation right now. There’s not much we can do about it.”
Actually, nothing can be done about it.
ThenightattheDomebegan with a pre-game ceremony to honour Iginla for his 1,000th NHL point. Over the din of a deafening ovation, Iginla acceptedachequefor$100,000— on behalf of the Flames Foundation for Life to be directed to charities of his choice — from Lanny McDonald.
Chalk it up as one of several moments of joy on a night of resignation for Flames fans with their beloved heroes fad- ing out of the playoff picture. Alex Tanguay tantalized the faithful with his slick stickhandling, making the Oilers look foolish in the process. Greg Nemisz recorded his first NHL assist on a goal by Curtis Glencross, who kindly retrieved the puck for the fresh-faced rookie. Goalie Miikka Kiprusoff tied Mike Vernon for the franchise record in wins with 262.
The Dome erupted with the “Iggy, Iggy” chant and doffed their hats as Iginla recorded a hat-trick to bring his goal total to 42, good for third in the entire NHL.
Rookie Magnus Paajarvi scored the loan goal for the Oilers, who clinched 30th spot in the league with the loss.
“No offence, but they have so many guys out with injuries,” said rookie Mikael Backlund, who recorded three assists.
“They weren’t a great team to play against tonight.”
And to think the Flames in December (ranked 14th in the Western Conference at the time) were just a handful of points up on the basementdwelling Oilers.
On Dec. 23, they set the goal of winning two out of every three games to hit 95 points and give themselves a legitimate shot at qualifying for the playoffs. They still could hit 95 points, but it won’t matter.
“I think we’re 12, 13 games over .500,” Iginla said. “It was a big turnaround. It’s not that we’re not good team. We are a good team . . . We could easily have been in.” He swallowed hard. “There are positives, but unfortunately it doesn’t feel like it today.”