Blackhawks end Flames' season
A highly anticipated Stanley Cup playoff clash with the Vancouver Canucks will have to wait for another year.
The Calgary Flames were finally put on ice Monday night at the Pengrowth Saddledome, eliminated in six games of the Western Conference quarter-final following a 4-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks.
Goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin more than lived up to his "Bulin Wall" moniker, stopping 43 of 44 Calgary shots.
Patrick Kane, Adam Burish, Brian Campbell and Dustin Byfuglien provided all of the offensive damage for the Blackhawks, who, coincidentally, clinched their first post-season series since ousting the Flames back in 1996.
Byfuglien also added a pair of assists.
"We're excited about the win, but you pay the price," said Chicago captain Jonathan Toews. "You take a lot of pressure and abuse."
Flames rugged winger Todd Bertuzzi scored the team's only goal, and Miikka Kiprusoff registered 12 saves. Calgary — ousted from the first round for the fourth straight year — could hardly be accused of lying down Monday night, outshooting Chicago 44-16.
The Blackhawks will now open the second round on the road against the Vancouver Canucks. The matchup was made possible after Anaheim upset the top-seeded San Jose Sharks in six games Monday night.
"Since the start of the year, guys weren't happy with just saying 'the fans were back and this is a fun team to watch,"' said Burish. "We wanted to show people we're a good hockey team, and a team that's going to make the playoffs and is going to do more than make the playoffs.
"Guys had that edge that said 'You know what? It's more than just filling the building every night.'"
Chicago too much for hurting Flames
The Blackhawks' top top defensive pairing of Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith did an outstanding job of helping limit Calgary captain Jarome Iginla to three goals and an assist in the series.
"I definitely feel a big responsibility and a part of it for not helping us get it done," said Iginla.
At 27-10-4, the Flames had one of the better home records in the NHL this season, and won their two playoff games at the Saddledome.
A rash of injuries, however, combined with a 5-1 shellacking by the Blackhawks on Saturday night, seemed to crush Calgary's spirits through the first 40 minutes in Game 6.
Flames hard-hitting defenceman Dion Phaneuf was the latest to miss a playoff game.
Phaneuf, who suffered an undisclosed upper body injury in Game 5 after taking a jolt from Chicago's Troy Brouwer in the third period, joined a list of injured Flames players that included fellow defender Robyn Regehr.
"The organization gave us the opportunity to go deep and to win, and we didn't get it done," said Iginla. "Injuries are part of it.
"Even with those, we were still capable for winning this series and it's hard to take."
The Flames were hoping to start fast and stay out of the penalty box.
Both plans failed to materialize early.
Bertuzzi's careless elbow on Chicago defenceman Brent Seabrook cost the Flames his services just 2:20 into the first period. On the ensuing power play, Kane fired home a rebound by Kiprusoff to give the Blackhawks a 1-0 lead.
Kane's second goal of the post-season also gave Chicago a power-play goal in five consecutive games.
Still reeling from the deficit, the stunned Flames suffered a defensive breakdown in their own end to fall behind 2-0 less than eight minutes later.
Byfuglien circled around the Calgary net before spotting Burish, who made no mistake in converting the pass behind Kiprusoff.
"All season, I think teams thought they could challenge us physically and we've done a good job of answering that bell," said Burish. "I think a lot of our guys enjoy that. I know I enjoy those confrontations."
The Calgary goaltender allowed two goals in his first three shots.
Most disheartening to the home side was that it outshot Chicago after the opening period by a sizeable 16-7 margin.
The Blackhawks appeared to be backing off in the second, content to allow Khabibulin bail them out. The netminder didn't seem to mind the heavy workload, coming up big midway through the period by stoning Olli Jokinen on two shots at the side of the net.
Bertuzzi's goal not enough
A too-many-men on the ice call served by Bertuzzi led to Chicago's third goal at 13:31.
Campbell ripped a point shot that ricocheted off the stick of Calgary blue-liner Adam Pardy and over Kiprusoff.
The Flames refused to go silently, scoring just 54 seconds into the final period when Bertuzzi roofed a shot over Khabibulin from a near-impossible angle to the right of the Blackhawks goalie.
However, Byfuglien ended the game by backhanding an empty-net goal with five seconds remaining.
The Blackhawks' power play was red-hot in this series as the unit scored seven times on 24 changes. Calgary, meanwhile, only managed two goals in 18 opportunities.
With files from The Canadian Press