When the Calgary Flames lost on Thursday night, it appeared their season finale against the Vancouver Canucks would essentially be an elimination game, with one team moving on to the playoffs and the other's season officially over.
A slip-up by Vancouver ensured Calgary wouldn't have to hold its breath.
The Flames look to improve their playoff position on Saturday at GM Place while the Canucks, coming off a devastating loss, will simply try to close a disappointing season on a positive note.
Vancouver (39-32-10), appeared to be a playoff lock two weeks ago, winning three straight and six of eight to move to within a point of first-place Minnesota in the Northwest Division.
The Canucks - who won the Northwest last season - had a chance to jump into first on March 21, but a 2-1 loss to the Wild started Vancouver's downward spiral. They lost five of their next six, but a win over Edmonton on Thursday would have set up a winner-moves-on finale against Calgary (41-30-10).
Vancouver, though, couldn't get the job done against the already-eliminated Oilers, falling 2-1 at home.
"We've got no one to blame but ourselves," Canucks captain Markus Naslund said. "We had a chance to win a must-win game and we just didn't find a way to do it. If you don't win these games you don't deserve to be there."
The Canucks' loss clinched a playoff berth for Calgary, which had lost 3-1 to Minnesota earlier on Thursday, giving the Wild their first division crown. Daymond Langkow scored less than three minutes into the game for the Flames, who had 20 shots over the final two periods.
"I imagine a lot of teams are pushing right now and pressing a bit, but that's part of it," Calgary captain Jarome Iginla said. "These games are big games. You play the whole season down to the last few and the division comes down to the last few, so every team's in the same boat."
Calgary has dropped four of six, but can still finish as high as sixth in the West with a win over Vancouver. That plus a Colorado regulation loss Sunday against Minnesota would put the Flames into a quarterfinal series with the Wild, a team they went 6-2-0 against in the regular season.
If Calgary ends up seventh, it will face red-hot San Jose. An eighth-place finish means a matchup against Presidents Trophy-winning Detroit in the first round for the second straight year. The Red Wings won last season's playoff series in six games.
Iginla hasn't scored in his last four games and remains one goal shy of 50 for the second time in his career. He has two against Vancouver in 2007-08, and the Flames are 15-24-7 this season when he doesn't score.
Goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff, meanwhile, can reach 40 wins for the third straight season with a victory. But he's just 2-4-1 against the Canucks, and has a 5.83 goals-against average in three losses at GM Place.
Vancouver's offense has been quiet during the team's season-closing slump. The Canucks have scored just 15 goals in their last seven games, though six of those came in a win over the Flames on Sunday.
Goaltender Roberto Luongo has won five of his seven starts against Calgary this season, posting a 2.28 GAA.