Calgary Flames are in the playoff picture and the Los Angeles Kings are not.
That might be putting it too technically, but Calgary's 1-0 victory against L.A. on Saturday night carried a lot of meaning. Mike Cammalleri scored in the third period and Miikka Kiprusoff stopped 28 shots for his 44th career shutout as the Flames leapfrogged the Kings for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
"It's a big step for us," Flames captain Jarome Iginla said. "We look at it, if it didn't go our way tonight, we could be four points out again by two teams. We've been getting close, getting close. To finally get there, it's a big step for us and we believe we're going in the right direction.
"It feels good. It's been a long time. I don't think we've been in this playoff spot the whole year. Nobody's going to relax. But we'll enjoy it for tonight. It was a tight, tough game tonight."
Calgary is 4-0-4 in its last eight road games and 10-3-4 since a 9-0 loss in Boston on Jan. 5.
L.A. is sinking fast, in disconcerting fashion. It was shut out for the second straight game – both 1-0 games -- and the eighth time this season. The Kings have been held to one goal or less eight times in the past 12 games and 23 times in 59 games.
"I don't think I've ever done that," Kings coach Darryl Sutter said of the back-to-back 1-0 losses. "Maybe in a playoff series or something but not in the regular season. (It's) frustrating."
The Kings lost despite holding Calgary to two shots in the second period and 18 overall.
The scoreless tug-of-war was ended by a pair of former Kings. Tom Kostopoulos sent the puck along the end boards and it caromed out to Cammalleri, who banged it home at 4:03 of the third period.
"We were talking the whole way up the ice," Cammalleri said. "Tommy made a good play. I said, ‘Let's throw this at the net and he says OK.' He threw it there and just hoping it bounced out."
It was the type of game-winning goal that could be expected a matchup of two defensive teams.
"It didn't look like any pretty plays were happening – the ice was a little rough," Kostopoulos said. "Both teams were battling as hard as they could so we thought it would be an ugly one and it was a lucky bounce."
Kiprusoff made a terrific sprawling save on a backhand try by Mike Richards midway through the second period and helped kill three power plays.
"He's played as good as I've seen him play in his career, and that's counting the Vezina year," Iginla said. "All year he's been outstanding. It's amazing, having the best year that I remember. He's enjoying it, too. He likes this, climbing back up in the playoff race. He's into it."
L.A. again failed to give Jonathan Quick support. The Kings have scored 16 goals in his 16 regulation losses. The Kings' last even-strength goal was midway through the third period of a Feb. 12 game against Dallas.
"It's been the same thing for this team all year: finding ways to score goals," Anze Kopitar said.
"We've been shut out twice in back-to-back 1-0 games at home against teams that are two points behind us in both cases. I don't want to say we didn't work hard, we did, but we've got to find ways to score goals."
Sutter was late to his media scrum and said he had a sore throat, presumably because he had been yelling at his players. But he has publicly retained a reserved manner while trying to stay positive.
"We have to really bear down on the opportunities that we get," Sutter said. "You don't get a lot of opportunities, that's not anything inconsistent, I think that is consistent. We don't give a lot, so you have to bear down on the ones you get."
Sutter said he wasn't concerned about Quick's mental fatigue.
"My concern is that we're trying to be a playoff time in here," Sutter said. "Your concern is not the mental part at all. He's one of the strongest guys we have. My concern is … we're in a position where he's our best player, arguably the top three or four in the League, and my concern would be just the physical part."
L.A.'s best chance in the third might have been when defenseman Matt Greene hit the post at about 8:20. The Kings which pulled Quick for an extra attacker with about a minute to go but struggled to get set up in Calgary's zone and couldn't put a shot on net in the final seconds.
Calgary was actually more punchless than the Kings as it registered only two shots on goal in the second period. It had one shot through the first 14 minutes and the second was an easy stick stop for Quick.
Calgary hit two posts in the first 30 minutes – Krys Kolanos in the first period and Kostopoulos early in the second.
It was the 24th time, in 59 games, that the Kings played a scoreless first period.
Charlie Simmer, a member of the famed "Triple Crown Line," was honored before the game as part of the Kings Legends Nights.