VANCOUVER – Andrew Ebbett returned from a broken collarbone just in time to end the Calgary Flames season.
In his first game since breaking his collarbone in two places on Jan. 7, Ebbett deflected Sami Salo’s point shot through a crowd and over the shoulder of goalie Henrik Karlsson with 1:02 left in overtime, lifting the Vancouver Canucks to a 3-2 comeback win at Rogers Arena on Saturday night.
Mike Cammalleri rifled a long one-timer past the glove of Roberto Luongo 51 seconds into the third period to put the Flames ahead 2-1 and temporarily keep their season alive. But defenseman Marc-Andre Gragnani tied the game with 8:15 left -- his first goal since coming to the Canucks from Buffalo at the trade deadline. Ebbett's goal that gave the Canucks their season-best sixth straight victory.
Maxim Lapierre also scored and Henrik Sedin has two assists as the Canucks moved one point ahead of the St. Louis Blues atop the Western Conference.
Olli Jokinen also scored for Calgary and Karlsson made 31 saves in his first NHL start since suffering a knee injury almost four months earlier as the Flames bounced back from a 4-1 loss at home to Colorado the night before that left them with only a slim chance of making the postseason.
Despite the single point, the 11th-place Flames were eliminated from the playoffs. With just two games left to play, the best they can do is 90 points. Either Dallas or San Jose, who are battling for eighth, is assured of finishing with more than that because they play each other Saturday and Tuesday.
Luongo, back in goal after a sore neck forced him to surrender Friday’s scheduled start to Cory Schneider late in the warmup, made 31 saves and had to be at his best in the first period.
Despite the disappointment of the previous night, Calgary outshot Vancouver 12-4 before a late flurry at the end of the first period. Luongo had to be sharp early, sliding across to deny Chris Butler’s one-timer 3:30 into the game.
Lapierre opened the scoring 98 seconds later, holding off Jokinen’s check as he went hard to the net to take a backhand saucer pass from Henrik Sedin, then kicking the puck to his stick before stuffing it under Karlsson’s left pad.
It was the second goal in as many games – and fourth point – for Lapierre since moving up to the top line with Henrik Sedin and Alexandre Burrows while Daniel Sedin continues to recover from a concussion that has kept him out six games.
Calgary had several chances to tie before the period ended, but Luongo made half a dozen good stops the next 13 minutes and the Canucks regained momentum on a late power play when Cory Sarich hooked Chris Higgins on a breakaway that Karlsson stopped. Dan Hamhuis almost doubled the lead in the dying seconds, but his point shot bounced off both posts and stayed out.
Jokinen tied it on a power play 5:38 into the second period, but only after Jannik Hansen lost the puck on a shorthanded breakaway at the other end and then created a 3-on-2 when his attempt to pass back to his defense found Jarome Iginla instead. Iginla fed across to Jokinen at the top of the circles for a one-timer just past the outstretched left pad of a sprawled Luongo.
The Flames, just 1-4-4 the last nine games, gave workhorse No.1 Miikka Kiprusoff a rare night off. It was just the fourth time in 41 games that Kiprusoff, who is one appearance shy of a seventh-straight 70-game season, didn't play. Instead the Flames called on Karlsson, who had only played 20 minutes in the NHL since injuring his knee in a crease collision with Canucks forward David Booth back on Dec. 4 and later losing the backup job.
Vancouver again came within inches of scoring when a shot bounced off Hansen in front of the net, off Karlsson, and trickled towards the goal line with 4:30 left, but it was swept away at the last second by a diving Tom Kostopoulos.
Cammalleri put the Flames ahead on a nice pull up ad cross-ice pass from David Moss, but Gragnani tied it with just his second goal all season, firing a point shot under Karlsson’s blocker-side arm after some nice work along the boards by Henrik Sedin and Alex Burrows, who fed the puck across to the point.