|Calgary Flames' Akim Aliu, a Nigerian-born Canadian, celebrates his goal during first period NHL hockey action against the Anaheim Ducks in Calgary, Alberta, Saturday, April 7, 2012. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Jeff McIntosh)|
Aliu gets first 2 NHL goals, Flames top Ducks 5-2
The performance by the 22-year-old prospect, playing just his second NHL game, provided a positive finish to another disappointing season for Calgary.
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 last 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 slapshot that Hiller couldn't stop.
Aliu pushed the lead to 4-1 at 7:24 of the third when Bouwmeesteer'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.
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.
Aliu 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.
On the first goal, he laid a heavy body check on Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler. Then, skating down the wing, he fired a pass intended for Mike Cammalleri, which instead caromed off the skate of Anaheim's Luca Sbisa and deflected past Hiller.
Later in the first, the six-foot-four, 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 ambushed Aliu, getting a double-minor for roughing.
Aliu remained a marked man, drawing another penalty in the second when Sheldon Brookbank started pushing and shoving with him, getting penalized for his actions. 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.
Head 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 back-up goaltender Dan Ellis.
The 41-year-old Selanne led the Ducks in scoring this season with 26 goals and 40 assists.
Notes: Selanne's 663 career goals are one behind Jaromir Jagr, who is 11th all-time. ... Anaheim went 27-23-8 under coach Bruce Boudreau, who was hired Nov. 30. ... Putting Calgary's 16 overtime losses in perspective, only two teams have had more -- this season's Florida Panthers (18) and the 2008-09 Tampa Bay Lightning (18). ... Flames prospect Sven Baertschi has 15 points (3 goals, 12 assists) in his first five WHL playoff games. He had three goals in five games with the Flames as an emergency recall in March.