There’s a feeling here that we’re not done yet. It’s one thing to get in the playoffs. Now it’s to compete, and that’s what we’re aiming to do. We’re going to have a lot of fun tonight, enjoying this and settling down but the real work starts. - Kris Russell
CALGARY, AB -- With a handful of seconds left on the clock and a two-goal lead, Kris Russell had the puck on his stick and one thought on his mind.
“Just get it out.”
He did, dumping it down into the Los Angeles Kings zone and onto the stick of Drew Doughty as time expired, simultaneously eliminating the defending Stanley Cup champions from playoff contention and punching Calgary’s ticket to the postseason for the first time in six years with a 3-1 win at Scotiabank Saddledome.
“It was pretty exciting,” Russell added. “After [Jiri Hudler] scored we knew we still had to play. There’s lots of time left. They’re a skilled team. We play simple hockey and once I got it on my stick, I took a glance at the clock and I just wanted to get it out of the zone. It was a pretty incredible feeling.”
The Flames had two cracks to clinch: Thursday against the reigning, defending Cup champs, or Saturday against the Winnipeg Jets -- another team that earned a berth in the postseason thanks to Calgary’s regulation defeat of the Kings.
The former suited Dennis Wideman just fine.
"After the pre-game skate today, I saw a guy walking down the street with a Flames jersey over his suit. I knew it was going to be a crazy atmosphere in here tonight," said Wideman, who finished the night with two assists and a plus-2 rating. "All year long, I don’t think people expected us to make the playoffs. Coming into tonight, I don’t even think people expected us to win this game.
“I think all the way through the year up until probably right now, everybody said we weren't going to make it, we weren't going to make it, weren't going to make it. It was great to come through against the defending Stanley Cup champions, do it the front-door way, not have to go through the back door.
"We wanted to beat L.A. We wanted to get in tonight."
“On one hand, it's like great relief,” added Jonas Hiller, who turned aside 33 of 34 shots, including 13 in the third period to close out the Kings. “Certainly, there was some pressure on us because we wanted to do it and find a way. To be able to beat the defending Stanley Cup champions to make the playoffs makes it even more special. I think it starts sinking in and that we're going to be playing a few more games.
“I'm really happy. I'm happy for myself. I'm happy for the team. I'm happy for the whole Calgary.”
Happy, but not content.
The Cinderella story isn’t complete.
It continues in a first-round date with the Vancouver Canucks.
“Our goal wasn’t just to get into the playoffs,” Russell said. “Now our task is to win. It starts with Game 1 in the playoffs. We have one more game left. We have to finish strong and get some momentum heading into the playoffs. We’re a team that believes in here and we want to go a long way.
”We have a group of guys that not many people believed in but internally we did. To do it with the group we did it was pretty special. At the same time I think there’s a feeling here that we’re not done yet. It’s one thing to get in the playoffs. Now it’s to compete, and that’s what we’re aiming to do.
"We’re going to have a lot of fun tonight, enjoying this and settling down but the real work starts.”