Anaheim Ducks douse Calgary Flames’ post-season in first-round sweep

The Calgary Flames are the first team to be eliminated from this year’s Stanley Cup playoffs. The Flames’ season ended in disappointment on Wednesday night after a fourth consecutive one-goal loss.

The dissatisfaction wasn’t necessarily with what happened — Calgary entered its first round series a decided underdog against the Pacific Division champion Anaheim Ducks — but more so with how it happened.

The Flames were in every game, including the series clinching 3-1 loss at Scotiabank Saddledome, but were unable to push the series to a Game 5 due to various failings.

“It’s a learning experience for all us in how fine the line is between winning and losing in the playoffs,” said Calgary captain Mark Giordano, whose team was swept in its best-of-seven Western Conference quarter-final matchup. “Penalties, mistakes, all the little details. I felt every game there was a little minor detail that they were better than us in and it was the difference.”

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Goaltending was once again front and centre in the Flames undoing on Wednesday, as was the case in Game 3.

Veteran Brian Elliott struggled in the post-season after being brought over from St. Louis last June to stabilize the position after Calgary’s goaltending was worst in the NHL last season.

The 32-year-old gave up a soft goal in the final minute of the second period in Game 3 that kick-started a Ducks rally which saw them roar back from a 4-1 deficit to win 5-4 in overtime. Elliott, who faced 27 shots, admitted afterwards that he let the team down.

With veteran backup Chad Johnson the other option, Gulutzan didn’t name his Game 4 starter until Wednesday morning. His decision to pull Elliott Wednesday night came much quicker. It took just one goal, which came on Anaheim’s third shot at 5:38.

The energy started to drain from the Saddledome after Patrick Eaves’s harmless-looking wrist shot from a sharp angle banked in off the inside of Elliott’s left pad.

“I didn’t like the goal,” said Gulutzan. “I just felt at that time that maybe we needed a spark. If you looked at our first 4-5 minutes, we were really jittery.”

Elliott, who will be a unrestricted free agent on July 1, was desolate post-game.

“As a goalie you take pride on giving yourself and your team a chance to win every night,” he said. “I still can’t explain how it goes under my pad there. I feel bad.”

Johnson surrendered a goal on the second shot he faced and Gulutzan said it wasn’t until the second period that he felt his team finally got going.

In a series in which Calgary outshot Anaheim in all but the first game, a total of 138-22 overall, there were other mistakes made.

In Game 1, it was a non-stop trips to the penalty box. Seven minors put the Ducks on the power play far too often and they took advantage.

In Game 2, Calgary gave up the tying goal on a 3-on-0 after a dreadful line-change. The winning goal came on a late power play after an unnecessary penalty by Dougie Hamilton.

“It sucks,” said Sean Monahan, who had four goals, one in each game. “It’s the most fun to play hockey in the playoffs and you go out in four. It’s not a good feeling.”

Two years ago when Calgary last made the playoffs, the team was dubbed the ‘Find-a-way Flames’ for their ability to always find a way to win. This series, they kept finding a way to lose.

“We played well enough to get wins,” Gulutzan said with a sigh. “Two, three you could argue. We didn’t get the goals when we needed late. We were always down one. If you rewind the series you can see some tipping points where we made some mistakes.”

The Flames drew high praise from the opposition as well, with Ducks coach Randy Carlyle giving full credit to Calgary.

“They were true to their word saying they probably deserved a better fate in some of the situations,” said Carlyle.

“This is sports and when you’re on the winning side, you’ve hopefully taken advantage of some of the things you were presented with and that’s the way it worked out for us.”

The Ducks now have the luxury of rest and recovery ahead of their conference semifinal. They await the series winner between the Edmonton Oilers and San Jose Sharks tied at 2-2.

Anaheim Ducks goalie John Gibson, left, stops a shot from Calgary Flames’ Matthew Tkachuk during third period NHL hockey round one playoff action in Calgary, Wednesday, April 19, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Calgary Flames players leave the bench after an NHL hockey round one playoff action loss to the Anaheim Ducks, in Calgary, Wednesday, April 19, 2017. The Flames ended their run for the Stanley Cup tonight after a 3-1 loss to the Ducks. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Anaheim Ducks players celebrate after third period NHL hockey round one playoff action against the Calgary Flames, in Calgary, Wednesday, April 19, 2017. The Ducks ended the Flames’ playoff hopes with a 3-1 win. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Calgary Flames’ players watch the dying seconds of their loss to the Anaheim Ducks during third period NHL hockey round one playoff action in Calgary, Wednesday, April 19, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Anaheim Ducks’ Kevin Bieksa, left, and Nate Thompson celebrate after third period NHL hockey round one playoff action against the Calgary Flames, in Calgary, Wednesday, April 19, 2017. The Ducks ended the Flames’ playoff hopes with a 3-1 win. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Anaheim Ducks’ Ryan Getzlaf, right, celebrates his empty net goal with teammate Ryan Kesler during third period NHL hockey round one playoff action against the Calgary Flames, in Calgary, Wednesday, April 19, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Anaheim Ducks’ Ryan Getzlaf, right, celebrates his empty net goal with teammates Ryan Kesler, left, and Josh Manson as Calgary Flames’ players look on during third period NHL hockey round one playoff action in Calgary, Wednesday, April 19, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Anaheim Ducksgoalie John Gibson, left, celebrates with teammate Corey Perry after third period NHL hockey round one playoff action against the Calgary Flames, in Calgary, Wednesday, April 19, 2017. The Ducks ended the Flames’ playoff hopes with a 3-1 win. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Anaheim Ducks goalie John Gibson, left, deflects a shot from Calgary Flames’ Mikael Backlund, of Sweden, during second period NHL hockey round one playoff action in Calgary, Wednesday, April 19, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Anaheim Ducks’ Logan Shaw, left, looks away as Calgary Flames’ Sean Monahan, centre, celebrates his goal with teammate Troy Brouwer, second from right, and Johnny Gaudreau during second period NHL hockey round one playoff action in Calgary, Wednesday, April 19, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Anaheim Ducks’ Logan Shaw, right, is checked by Calgary Flames’ Freddie Hamilton during second period NHL hockey round one playoff action in Calgary, Wednesday, April 19, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Anaheim Ducks goalie John Gibson, centre, looks on as teammate Korbinian Holzer, right, of Germany, poke chekcs Calgary Flames’ Freddie Hamilton during second period NHL hockey round one playoff action in Calgary, Wednesday, April 19, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Anaheim Ducks’ Nate Thompson, left, scores on Calgary Flames goalie Chad Johnson, centre, as Sam Bennett, right, looks on during first period NHL hockey round one playoff action in Calgary, Wednesday, April 19, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Anaheim Ducks’ Nate Thompson, right, doges a check from Calgary Flames’ Deryk Engelland, left, and Johnny Gaudreau during first period NHL hockey round one playoff action in Calgary, Wednesday, April 19, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Anaheim Ducks’ Nate Thompson, second form right, celebates his goal with teammates Brandon Montour, left, Hampus Lindholm, seccond from left, of Sweden, and Rickard Rakell, also of Sweden, during first period NHL hockey round one playoff action against the Calgary Flames, in Calgary on Wednesday, April 19, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Anaheim Ducks’ Antoine Vermette, left, checks Calgary Flames’ Mark Giordano during first period NHL hockey round one playoff action in Calgary, Wednesday, April 19, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Anaheim Ducks’ Nate Thompson, left, scores on Calgary Flames goalie Brian Elliott, centre, as Sam Bennett, right, looks on during first period NHL hockey round one playoff action in Calgary, Wednesday, April 19, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Anaheim Ducks goalie John Gibson, left, and Brandon Montour, right, sandwich Calgary Flames’ Sam Bennett during first period NHL hockey round one playoff action in Calgary, Wednesday, April 19, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Anaheim Ducks’ Antoine Vermette, left, is checked by Calgary Flames’ Matthew Tkachuk during first period NHL hockey round one playoff action in Calgary, Wednesday, April 19, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Calgary Flames goalie Brian Elliott swats away the puck during first period NHL hockey round one playoff action against the Anaheim Ducks, in Calgary on Wednesday, April 19, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Anaheim Ducks’ Andrew Cogliano, left, checks Calgary Flames’ Mikael Backlund, of Sweden, during first period NHL hockey round one playoff action in Calgary, Wednesday, April 19, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Anaheim Ducks’ Nick Ritchie, left, checks Calgary Flames’ Dougie Hamilton into the bench during third period NHL hockey round one playoff action in Calgary, Wednesday, April 19, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Anaheim Ducks’ Ryan Getzlaf, second from right, celebrates a goal by teammate Patrick Eaves, not seen, with other teammates during first period NHL hockey round one playoff action against the Calgary Flames, in Calgary on Wednesday, April 19, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh