EDMONTON - The odds finally caught up to the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday night.
Owen Nolan scored the game-winning goal with 3:44 left in regulation as the Calgary Flames won 3-2 and bounced the rival Oilers from the Western Conference playoff race. Adrian Aucoin and Alex Tanguay had the other Flames goals, with Curtis Glencross scoring twice for Edmonton.
For Edmonton (40-34-6) it was the official end to a tremendous late-season run which saw the team win 13 of its last 19 games.
"We believed that we could get in and that we had the type of team that could make some noise," said Oiler forward Jarret Stoll.
"It sucks. But we can't feel sorry for ourselves. We battled hard when a lot of things were against us. And we never once used those excuses." "
Our guys laid it on the line every night for a long time and it is tough," added assistant captain Steve Staios. "We knew we were in a tough spot but we played our hearts out. It's just disappointing."
Even while dealing with the sting of being out of the running, the young Oilers admitted that this year's finish could pay off in the future.
"We're pretty proud of each other in here for the character we showed down the stretch and for how hard we battled for each other," said rookie forward Sam Gagner, 18. "We learned a lot and came together as a group really well. Looking towards the future we are pretty excited about it but it's pretty tough to think about that right now."
Calgary's room was a lot more upbeat.
The Flames (41-29-10) snapped a two-game losing skid to move into sixth place in the Western Conference. They can clinch a playoff spot with a point over their last two games, or a Vancouver or Nashville loss. Nolan said that the composure his team showed against a team with its season on the line was a good sign.
"You've got to tip your hat to Edmonton," he said. "They played really well the last couple of months to get themselves back into the race. They've got a lot of heart but we've got a lot of heart here too and we want to continue to win."
Calgary captain Jarome Iginla said the Flames did what they have to late in the season, finding a way to win.
"In certain areas we'd like to have pushed back more than we did at times but we found a way to win the game and that's what it's about at this time of year, winning games in different ways," he said. "After they got one we settled down on the bench and had a little bit of a push after and got the goal right back. It was great."
The Oilers kicked off the scoring just over 10 minutes in as Glencross continued to pay dividends since joining Edmonton from Columbus in early February, taking a pass in the middle of the ice and beating Calgary goalie Miikka Kiprusoff through the legs for his 14th of the year and eighth as an Oiler.
Calgary tied the game up five minutes later on the power play as Nolan hit a pinching Aucoin with a pass. Aucoin's shot caromed off of defender Denis Grebeshkov and past Oilers starter Dwayne Roloson.
Calgary took a late 2-1 lead, scoring with just 2.1 seconds left as Tanguay took a bad angle shot on net which Roloson deflected into his own goal. Edmonton's leading scorer Ales Hemsky left the game with a knee injury midway through the sloppy second.
The Oilers tied the game with 6:43 to go in the third as Kyle Brodziak made a long pass to spring Glencross on a breakaway. Glencross scored his second of the contest glove-side on Kiprusoff.
But Calgary regained the lead with 3:44 remaining as a big rebound on a Matthew Lombardi shot came out to Nolan, and he was able to put the puck into the empty cage.
Notes. The Flames were missing the services of centre Craig Conroy who left the game in their game against Vancouver on Sunday with a torso injury. However Daymond Langkow was able to play after missing one game due to a death in the family Joni Pitkanen was back in the Oilers lineup after leaving Edmonton's last game against Calgary on Saturday with an injured groin Entering the game Calgary had lost 116 man games due to injury this season, compared to a franchise-record 334 for Edmonton... The Oilers have signed free agent forward Bryan Lerg from Michigan State University. The five-foot-10, 175-pound Michigan native has 20 goals and 19 assists in 42 games this year for the Spartans. Lerg signed a two-year deal worth US$962,000, with $175,000 in bonuses.