LOS ANGELES â€” The equipment bag he was stuffing his gear into still said Stockton Heat on it, but Jon Gillies was now an NHL goalie. A victorious one, at that.
Gillies made 27 saves in his first career start, and Dennis Wideman, Freddie Hamilton and Alex Chiasson scored second-period goals as the Calgary Flames defeated the Los Angeles Kings 4-1 on Thursday night.
Sam Bennett added a power-play goal to open the scoring for the Flames, who broke a two-game losing streak.
“That was an unbelievable effort by our team and it was fun to be behind and fun to play behind,” Gillies said. “When you play behind an effort like that, it’s easy to see why they have had so much success this year and it’s nice to be a part of.”
Gillies had been called up on an emergency basis from the club’s AHL affiliate after backup Chad Johnson suffered a lower-body injury against Anaheim on Tuesday. The 23-year-old Gillies responded by helping Calgary inch closer to clinching the first wild card in the Western Conference.
“I’ve seen that before in exhibitions and in Stockton, and I didn’t expect anything else,” Hamilton said. “He’s really good.”
With his parents and younger brother in attendance to see him face his favourite team – at least until he was drafted by the Flames in 2012 – Gillies seemed like he was in for a rude awakening when Trevor Lewis’ shot whizzed past him 6:13 into the first.
That was the wake-up call he needed, Gillies said.
“I kind of thought to myself, ‘Well, welcome,'” Gillies said. “And then from there on out, I just tried to play my game, and thankfully when I made a mistake, was down and out or had a bad rebound our guys were there to bail me out. It was a really good team win.”
It was also a much-needed win, as the Flames had dropped three of four coming in, including fight-filled losses to the Kings and Ducks.
The Flames can now assure themselves a first-round matchup against the top team in the Pacific Division with a win against San Jose or a Nashville loss at Winnipeg on Saturday.
“We want to ramp it up and make sure we’re playing in that game as we want to play in Game 1,” said Wideman of the season finale. “It’s a big game, we can use it that way.”
Wideman used his return after missing 10 games to pick up his fifth goal and show he was ready for the playoffs.
Exiting the penalty box after a roughing call, Wideman was on the receiving end of Micheal Ferland’s alert pass and found himself all alone against Kings goalie Ben Bishop. Wideman then put the puck between Bishop’s legs for a 2-1 lead the Flames would not relinquish in taking the season series against the Kings.
Hamilton then scored on a backhand wraparound, followed by Chiasson tipping TJ Brodie’s slap shot and redirecting past Bishop to make it 4-1.
“We don’t match up in our division very well, and we certainly did not tonight and it’s clear,” Kings coach Darryl Sutter said.
Bishop made 20 saves for Los Angeles.
NOTES: Bishop lost for the fifth time in seven starts (2-3-2) since being acquired from Tampa Bay. … Flames RW Kris Versteeg had a point for the fourth consecutive game. … After combining for 19 penalties and 74 penalty minutes in their last meeting on March 29, the Flames and Kings were whistled just five times. … Calgary scratched C Matt Stajan, sitting him after playing in the first 80 games this season.
Flames: Visit the San Jose Sharks on Saturday to close out the regular season.
Kings: Host the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday in their home finale.
Dan Greenspan, The Associated Press