The Calgary Flames finished off their regular season on a high as they were able to serve backup goaltender Curtis McElhinney his first NHL win in their 4-1 victory over the Edmonton Oilers.
GAME IN A MINUTE
THE NUMBERS GAME
23 - Years since a team has won a game with 15 skaters
39 - Goals on the year for Mike Cammalleri
73 - Daymond Langkow's faceoff win percentage
THE BIG HIT
David Moss earned a big round of applause early with a hard check on big Steve MacIntyre as the gritty forward was trying to get off the ice.
THE BIG SAVE
Curtis McElhinney looked absolutely amazing late in the second period when he stoned Sam Gagner's one-timer with a great stretch pad save.
WHY THE FLAMES WON
McElhinney was on his game tonight and wasn't about to let the opportunity for win #1 to slip by. He made some great saves and the team was able to produce the much-needed offense.
OUR THREE STARS
1. McElhinney - Showed no rust all night
2. Cammalleri - 3 goals in two nights
3. Pelech - Earned third assist since Monday
Injured players include Curtis Glencross (undisclosed), Dion Phaneuf (undisclosed), Cory Sarich (lower body), Robyn Regehr (lower body), Andre Roy (upper body), Mark Giordano (shoulder) and Rene Bourque (ankle). Wayne Primeau (foot) and Rhett Warrener (shoulder) are out indefinitely.
The Flames head to the Windy City to take on the Chicago Blackhawks in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
"I'm thrilled, I couldn't be happier for sure," McElhinney said with a wide grin.
"It felt like one of those nights where I wasn't going to be denied."
Afterwards, he was treated to shaving cream in the face courtesy of Adrian Aucoin while being interviewed on Hockey Night in Canada.
"What a rookie, didn't even see it coming," Aucoin chuckled as he headed back to the locker room.
McElhinney still had shaving cream all over as he faced a crowd of media.
"My left eye is burning considerably right now but for the win I won't complain," he smiled.
McElhinney's much-maligned record prior to the game was 0-6-1, something that held a lot of frustration for the netminder.
"My record wasn't as good as it could be and it's tough to sit here and lose after every game you get," he said with some dismay.
"I've been here for over 100 games and I had to be extremely patient playing behind Kip so it felt great."
Some have questioned whether the team is fully confident in McElhinney's abilities in between the pipes and his teammates were quick to jump to the rookie's defense.
"Unbelievable, the best player by far," said Craig Conroy of McElhinney's play, mentioning that the club wanted to play well for him.
"We talked about it before the game. It was fun to watch."
In terms of the comfort level of the team when he's in net, Conroy wanted to dispell any thoughts that the team wasn't confident in his play.
"When he goes in the net we're confident we can win games with him," said Conroy, chalking up the unflattering record to the play in front of him.
"He is that good, he just doesn't get many opportunities. When he does, it's usually in a back-to-back and we haven't played that well back-to-back," he said.
"He works hard every day in practice and that's what no one see's. He makes all those saves in practice and now he got to do it in a game."
Eric Nystrom was also very complimentary of McElhinney's play and wanted to let it be known that his role isn't a favourable one.
"It's definitely a tough role to be in, especially when you don't see that much action because Kipper is a guy who gets the majority of the games, if not 90 per cent of them," he said.
"Curtie played well and I've seen him play a lot of games like that in the minors and knew he was capable. It's great to see him get his first win."
In his first start since Mar. 6, the 25-year-old was tested early and often.
During the opening minutes McElhinney was pelted with shot after shot during a scramble but was able to stop every shot as he swam across the crease, throwing both his arms and legs in every direction.
He looked at the onslaught in a positive light however, creditting it to getting him focused.
"It helps get you into the game and unfortunately the last seven or eight minutes that I played the other night in Edmonton obviously weren't very good," McElhinney told the media.
"I was able to get into right away. It was good for me."
The Oilers leading scorer, Ales Hemsky, was all over the Flames netminder in the second period. In one sequence the right winger wired a shot, aiming to go top shelf but McElhinney threw the paddle up to send the puck into the netting.
Later on, Hemsky took a hard slap shot from the hash marks but McElhinney flashed the glove to make another timely save.
The last 2:30 of the second period really showcased McElhinney's play as he stoned the Oilers on five great scoring chances.
The first came as Hemsky and Sam Gagner cruised into the defensive zone on a 2-on-1. McElhinney appeared to be committing to Hemsky so the sniper threw it over to Gagner who thought he had an open net but the London product, in a very Miikka Kiprusoff-esque move, stretched his right pad out to deny the Oilers a second goal.
After that, he faced three rounds from Ales Kotalik and a hard slap shot from Denis Grebeshkov.
As the period ended, the C of Red was on their feet giving McElhinney a well-deserved standing ovation.
"I was diving around a little more than I would like to but I guess as long as the puck doesn't go in the net we won't complain," he said of the swarm of shots.
The final frame started with the Oilers coming on strong, trying to get the tying marker but McElhinney stood his ground. He faced three quick shots but looked steady on all of them.
The much-publicized power play woes nearly cost the Flames a shortie in the third period but McElhinney's quest for his first win continued with another highlight reel save.
Jarome Iginla made an uncharacteristic giveaway at the Oilers blueline, springing captain Ethan Moreau. The forward went flying in on a breakaway and tried to go five-hole but McElhinney once again saved the day with a pokecheck and then a pad save on Moreau's rebound attempt.
"It was a big save for me and a nice way to get the power play going a little bit."
At the end of 60 minutes, McElhinney had stopped 35 of 36 shots to earn himself his first NHL win and the honourary puck to prove it.
"I usually don't hold on to a lot of things from hockey but this is one of those things I'll probably keep."