| |2011-12 Game No. 82; Home Game No. 41
Flames Record: 37-29-16
HIGHLIGHT OF THE DAY - ALIU OPENS THE SCORING WITH HIS 1ST NHL GOAL!
CALGARY, AB -- Akim Aliu provided a bit of a silver lining for the Calgary Flames at the end of another disappointing season.
The Nigerian-born Aliu scored his first two NHL goals Saturday to lead the Flames to a season-ending 5-2 victory over the Anaheim Ducks in a matchup of teams that will miss the playoffs.
The performance by the 22-year-old prospect came in just his second NHL game.
"It was surreal," said Aliu. "It's something you think about your whole life but you can never plan for it, you never know what the feelings are going to be like and when it happens, you don't believe it for the first while to enjoy it."
By winning their final two games, the Flames reached the 90-point mark for the eighth season in a row. However, since going to the Stanley Cup finals in 2004, the seven seasons since the NHL lockout haven't been as rewarding. Four first-round playoff losses have been followed by three years of not making the postseason.
Jay Bouwmeester, Anton Babchuk and Lee Stempniak also scored for Calgary (37-29-16).
Bobby Ryan scored his 30th and 31st goals of the season for Anaheim (34-36-12), which finished with its worst record since the 2003-04 season.
With Miikka Kiprusoff getting the final game of the season off, Henrik Karlsson made 23 saves for his first victory (1-4-2) in his ninth appearance. Karlsson was 0-6-3 since his previous win on Jan. 21, 2011.
Calgary broke a 1-1 tie with goals 25 seconds apart in the final minute of the second period.
Bouwmeester's bouncer from 40 feet out skipped through a crowd and eluded Jonas Hiller to make it 2-1 with 43 seconds to go. It was the first goal in 30 games for the defenseman and his fifth of the season.
Babchuk quickly made it a two-goal cushion with a long slap shot that Hiller couldn't stop.
Aliu pushed the lead to 4-1 at 7:24 of the third when Bouwmeester's shot deflected off his skate as he tried to get out of the way, and fluttered high and over the outstretched glove of Hiller.
Aliu made his NHL debut Thursday night against Vancouver and had an assist in the Flames' 3-2 victory. It was the culmination of a long journey which saw Aliu play for eight different professional teams over the past four seasons.
"Hopefully management liked what they saw and hopefully they give me a long look next year. That's all I can I really ask for," he said. "They've been so great to me that I can't really think too much ahead."
Aliu moved from Nigeria to the Ukraine shortly after he was born and his Nigerian father and Russian mother moved the family to Canada when he was 12. He had never skated before then.
He was acquired Jan. 30 from the Winnipeg organization in exchange for defensive prospect John Negrin. He had 10 goals and four assists in 40 games with Abbotsford of the AHL before Calgary recalled him Wednesday to give the pending restricted free agent a two-game look.
"It was fun to be a part of it for me, I got to play on his line for two games," said Mike Cammalleri. "I'm really happy for him, he played really hard, he played well, all the things we all saw - skated well, hit hard, made good plays with the puck."
On the first goal, Aliu had a heavy body check on Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler. Then, skating down the wing, he fired a pass intended for Cammalleri, which instead caromed off the skate of Anaheim's Luca Sbisa and deflected past Hiller.
Later in the first, the 6-foot-4, 225-pound winger got his gloves up as he bowled over Fowler again along the boards, drawing an immediate reaction from Anaheim's Matt Beleskey, who threw off his gloves and hit Aliu, getting a double-minor for roughing.
Aliu drew another penalty in the second when Sheldon Brookbank started pushing and shoving with him, getting penalized. Aliu was not penalized in either instance.
Both teams could have drastically different rosters next season. Unrestricted free agents on the Flames include forwards Olli Jokinen, Lee Stempniak, David Moss and Tom Kostopoulos, along with veteran defensemen Cory Sarich and Scott Hannan.
Jarome Iginla will be another hot topic. The Flames' captain and career leading scorer has a no-trade clause in his contract but there's talk the team may ask him to wave it.
"I honestly don't know what it holds," said Iginla, when asked about his future. "I do know that there will be a lot of questions and we're all going to be looked at it and that's part of it and we all should be being out for three years."
Coach Brent Sutter's three-year contract also expires this summer.
Potentially playing their final game for Anaheim include unrestricted free agents Teemu Selanne, Saku Koivu, Jason Blake, Niklas Hagman, George Parros, Rod Pelley, Brookbank and backup goaltender Dan Ellis.
The 41-year-old Selanne led the Ducks in scoring this season with 26 goals and 40 assists.
"It was tough to finish the season like we did, not making the playoffs is very disappointing," Selanne said. "But I still had a great time. Every day I have a big smile on my face to come to the rink so that's something that's most important for me."
| || |
| ||STAT OF THE DAY |
After Bobby Ryan tied the game up on the power play, it looked like the ice was shifting in Anaheim's favour. Calgary kept taking penalties and looked tired. However, after a killing a couple more minors, the Flames bounced back and scored twice in 25 seconds to take a two-goal lead into the third period.
Icetime -- Bouwmeester (24:32)
Shots -- Aliu, Jackman (3)
Hits -- Aliu, Jokinen (2)
Blocks -- Babchuk (3)
Takeaways -- Jokinen, Stajan, Stempniak, Babchuk (1)
Faceoff Wins -- Stajan (10, 77%)
| ||TWEET OF THE DAY: |