CALGARY – Michael Cammalleri grew-up a Red Wings’ fan. He went to the University of Michigan where he played three seasons for coach Red Berenson. He knows all about the tradition and history of Hockeytown as well as the playoff perfection that has resided in Detroit for more than two decades.
So you’d think that Cammalleri would revel in the opportunity to play spoiler against the Red Wings who still aren’t guaranteed a playoff spot. But not really, he said.
“I think it’s secondary with us,” Cammalleri said, prior to Wednesday’s game at Scotiabank Saddledome. “We’re trying to work on some things as an investment into next year. Playing spoiler is less of a motivator than the fact that you’re working on your own game.”
Though the game didn’t mean much in terms of the Western Conference standings for the hometown team, it certainly was tough to tell that the Flames weren’t motivated to raise havoc for the Red Wings, who are trying to extend their 21 year playoff streak.
But spoilers is exactly what the Flames were, especially goalie Miikka Kiprusoff and 34-year-old winger Steve Begin, as Calgary defeated the Red Wings, 3-2, to sweep the three-game season series for the first time since 1998-99.
The Wings’ loss, coupled by Columbus’s 3-2 overtime win at Anaheim, momentarily pushes Detroit out of the playoff picture, two-points behind the Blue Jackets for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West.
“This is an urgent moment for us,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “You have to win your way in, you can’t watch your way in. … We’re not at the level that we’ve been in the past, for sure, but we’ve still competed hard. I thought we competed hard tonight (but) we didn’t start on time and we made a couple of mistakes.”
Prior to Wednesday, Begin, the Flames’ oldest forward, had scored just twice in 35 games. But he doubled his season out-put with a pair of fluky goals in the third period that gave Calgary a two-goal cushion.
With the game tied 1-1, Begin was credited with an unassisted goal at 2:28 of the third after goalie Jimmy Howard went behind the net to control the puck for Jonathan Ericsson. But the puck took a crazy bounce off the back of Howard’s skate and crossed the goal line.
The Wings definitely had their opportunities in the third, but came up empty on three power-play chances in the final 13-minutes. Worst yet, the Flames scored a short-handed goal after Howard misplayed the puck behind the cage, where Begin scooped it up and wrapped a back-hander into the open net.
“I thought we had some real good looks at the end, but (Kiprusoff) was playing well at that point,” Babcock said. “Any way you want to look at it we went 0-for-5 on the power play tonight and then gave up a short-handed goal as well. That’s a tough night for you on the PP.”
The Wings had a chance late, but Kiprusoff made perhaps his finest save of the night, flashing his left catching glove to rob Wings defenseman Jakub Kindl, who whistled a slap shot from top of the left circle with 16 seconds left.
“He was good, played real well, made some key saves,” said Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg, of Kiprusoff, who made 36 saves to earn his first win in his last seven starts.
“But still we had our chances,” Zetterberg said. “We should be able to get more than two past him.”
The Wings got goals from Gustav Nyquist and Johan Franzen, who has scored a goal in each of the last three games.
Babcock praised Joakim Andersson’s line with Nyquist and Daniel Cleary for their hustle on the forecheck.
“I thought we’d have better jump tonight right from the get go, and I didn’t think we skated at all besides Andersson’s line,” Babcock said. “I thought Andersson’s line with Nyquist and Cleary there, but (Damien) Brunner had five shots in the first, so obviously that was our best line early, and we didn’t have a whole bunch of other guys going.”
THREE STARS: 3, Gustav Nyquist, DET (1 goal); 2, Steve Begin, CGY (2 goals); 1, Miikka Kiprusoff, CGY (36 saves, W).
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