CALGARY - Shawn Horcoff spoiled Curtis McElhinney's shutout bid, but couldn't ruin his night
Playing in just his seventh game of the season, McElhinney stopped 21 shots to lead the Calgary Flames to a 2-1 win over the Edmonton Oilers on Thursday. With 1:21 left in the third period, Horcoff took a pass from Sam Gagner and backhanded a shot past McElhinney, who was looking for his first NHL shutout.
"Yeah it was close, but after the day I had I just wanted that win," said McElhinney. "I'm glad I got that win, it kind of takes some of that pressure off."
Craig Conroy scored for the second straight night, while Curtis Glencross notched the game-winning goal on a third-period power play as the Flames (23-12-5) won their third straight game.
"It's a good feeling right now and to be able to string three wins together here feels great," said McElhinney, who improved his record to 3-2-0.
After breaking out of a seven-game losing streak with a 3-1 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs at home one night earlier, the Oilers (16-21-4), couldn't get much going offensively against the Flames aside from Horcoff's late goal.
"We don't even test their goaltender in the second period," lamented Edmonton coach Pat Quinn following the setback. "We didn't even challenge anywhere because we never got in their end. That's a sign of a dumb team."
Edmonton goalie Jeff Deslauriers played well for the Oilers, making 37 saves in a losing cause.
"He did a great job tonight," Quinn said. "He was sharp all night long, kept us in the game."
Just 15 seconds into the contest, McElhinney turned aside a shot by Gilbert Brule with his blocker. A short time later, McElhinney blocked a slap shot with his right pad to thwart a scoring opportunity by Dustin Penner.
The Flames poured on the pressure in the first period and outshot the Oilers 15-9. Deslauriers kept the Oilers in the game by turning aside back-to-back shots from the slot by Calgary forwards Dustin Boyd and Daymond Langkow.
Brandon Prust almost scored the game's opening goal late in the opening period, but he rang a heavy shot off the crossbar behind Deslauriers.
In the second, Deslauriers made great glove grabs on shots by Langkow and Fredrik Sjostrom before Conroy finally broke the scoreless drought with 10.2 seconds remaining in the period.
"I think they were more hungry than us," Deslauriers said. "They kept working. They just worked harder than us at the end of the second and that paid off for them."
Conroy one-timed a pass from Rene Bourque past Deslauriers on Calgary's 28th shot of the game for his second goal in as many games after going without a goal in his first 36 games of the season.
"You get that first one and then, you know, good things happen," Conroy said. "It definitely helps your confidence to get one and then all of a sudden you just feel like the weight of the world is off your shoulders."
Glencross then put the Flames up 2-0 at 10:07 of the third period with a nice redirection of a shot by Giordano during a Calgary power play before Horcoff rounded out the scoring.
"You know, it sucks that that one went in so late," Giordano said, "but he played outstanding."
After starting off the month of December with a 3-6-2 record, the Flames are now within a point of the Colorado Avalanche for top spot in the Northwest Division. Calgary holds two games in hand on the Avalanche (23-13-6), who lost 4-2 to the Red Wings in Detroit earlier Thursday.
"The last three games we've done a lot of things better and yet it's something we can't drop our guard with," Calgary coach Brent Sutter said. "We've got to make sure we stay with it."
Notes: Earlier in the day, McElhinney unsuccessfully attempted to change a flat tire on his car before having to call a tow truck. ... Since 1987, the Flames have compiled a 11-5-3 record at home in games played on New Year's Eve, including a 4-0-1 mark against the Oilers. ... Edmonton fell to 0-4-1 in the second game of back-to-backs this season. ... After blocking a shot off the stick of Calgary captain Jarome Iginla late in the first period, Edmonton defenceman Lubomir Visnovsky left the game with an injury to his left foot and didn't return.