Curtis McElhinney's night more than made up for his day.
Calgary's backup goaltender stopped 21 shots and came within 81 seconds of his first NHL shutout as the Flames beat the Edmonton Oilers 2-1 on Thursday night in the last game of calendar year 2009.
It was a nice ending to what started out as a lousy day.
"I had a flat tire (driving home from the Flames' morning skate). Came back to get it. Got home around 3 o'clock," McElhinney said with a grin. "I tried to change it, had all the nuts off, but it was frozen, and I couldn't kick it off. It was a nightmare. It felt like I might as well have just stayed here and slept at the rink.
"After the day I had, I just wanted that win. It's a good feeling."
There weren't many good feelings on the other side of the Battle of Alberta after the Oilers lost to the Flames for the fifth time in as many meetings this season.
"We were playing three-quarter-ice hockey. Bring it out, bring it up, give it to them, come back in our zone, play like hell for a while, and if we get it out, make a quick change and put another set out that takes it up, turns it over and goes back to its end," said an annoyed Oilers coach Pat Quinn after his team's eighth loss in nine games.
Craig Conroy broke a scoreless tie with 10.2 seconds left in the second period and Curtis Glencross added a power-play goal midway through the third. Shawn Horcoff ruined McElhinney's shutout bid at 18:39 of the final period.
"We played a real solid game," said Flames coach Brent Sutter, whose squad closed out December with three straight wins and now sits just a point back of the Colorado Avalanche for the top spot in the Northwest Division. Calgary has two games in hand on the Avs, who lost 4-2 at Detroit.
"Curtis played very well. He had a pretty good night in net, made some key saves at key times," added Sutter, "but overall, from the team, it was a real solid effort."
The Flames could make history on Jan. 30, when they face the Oilers for the final time this regular season. Since 1980, when the Flames moved from Atlanta to Calgary, neither team has managed to sweep the season series.
The Oilers relied heavily on goaltender Jeff Deslauriers, who kept his club in the game with a spectacular 37-save performance. While the Flames were close to airtight in front of McElhinney, the same couldn't be said of the Oilers in front of their 25-year-old netminder.
"Deslauriers was terrific . . . (the Flames) deserved that result, and maybe even better. They maybe should have had some more goals," Quinn said. "We didn't even challenge them in the second period. We never even got in their end. And that's the sign of a dumb team.
"Every once in a while, we look like we're going to come out of it, and we go right back to the same stuff. That was a carbon copy of half the losses we've had."
Glencross' power-play deflection at 10:07 of the third period loomed large after Horcoff's late goal. With Sheldon Souray in the box for interference, Calgary defenseman Mark Giordano fired a shot from the right point that Glencross, jostling in front with Ladislav Smid, tipped past Deslauriers' glove.
Giordano was sorry to see McElhinney lose his shutout bid.
"We were pretty solid defensively," Giordano said. "It (stinks) that that one went in so late, but he played outstanding. He played solid."
McElhinney, who got the assignment after Miikka Kiprusoff beat Los Angeles 2-1 on Wednesday, said he had plenty of help.
"There were rebounds, there, in the first period, and they were shooting a lot off my pads. You've got to hand it to the 'D' and forwards coming back, and picking up sticks. They did a really nice job there" he said. "I think that made the difference."
Conroy, who'd gone without a goal through the first 36 games of this season, got his second in two nights. Rene Bourque beat Souray for the puck in the right corner of the Oilers' zone and fed it the slot, where Conroy beat Deslauriers inside the left post.
"We were out there so long that the Ice Age was going to set in again, for crying out loud," Quinn groused of the long shift that led to the goal. "And when you're tired, your brains don't work. It was pretty easy pickings, unfortunately."
The Flames, after dropping six of seven mid-month, ended December with a 6-6-2 record. They are fifth in the West.
"We wanted to get headed in the right direction, and the best way to do that was to start winning at home," said Conroy, who has four points in four games. "These are big wins, three in a row here, and now we can look forward to getting going again."
The Oilers, meanwhile, have seen the wheels fall off since winning five in a row in early December.
"We have to play a full 60," Deslauriers said. "We need to regroup."