Sieloff gets goal in 1st NHL game, Flames beat Wild 2-1
ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) Patrick Sieloff scored the go-ahead goal in his NHL debut, making Niklas Backstrom a winner in his 413th and perhaps last NHL game.
The Calgary Flames closed the season with some smiles.
The Minnesota Wild could only grin through gritted teeth.
Backstrom made 35 saves against his former team, leading the Flames to a 2-1 victory over the Wild on Saturday night before briefly skating back out to acknowledge the applauding crowd as the first star of the game.
He alternated between waves of his hand and pats on his heart.
''For sure, if this is the end, it's a great way to go out,'' Backstrom said.
Zac Dalpe scored in the second period for the Wild (38-33-11), who stumbled into the postseason with their fifth consecutive loss and will play the Dallas Stars in the first round. The Wild have the fewest standings points (87) by a playoff qualifier since the shootout was added in 2005.
''It's exciting,'' goalie Devan Dubnyk said. ''That's why we don't want to talk about the last few games. It doesn't matter.''
The Wild, who beat Backstrom and the Flames 6-2 here on March 24, put 24 shots on target in the first 28 minutes. Dalpe's blind throw-it-on-the-net-and-see-what-happens backhander slipped past Backstrom at 13 minutes for his first goal with the Wild, but the stone-faced Finn in the net didn't budge after that.
''He's the only guy that kept us in the game,'' Flames coach Bob Hartley said. ''He was sensational.''
Backstrom was traded to Calgary last month for right wing David Jones. The 38-year-old goaltender is Minnesota's franchise leader in starts, wins and shutouts.
''Everything about him,'' Wild captain Mikko Koivu said, ''it's first class.''
Backstrom totaled only 40 games over the previous two seasons for the Wild because of injuries and didn't play at all as the No. 3 goalie in 2015-16 until the Flames gave him some time over the last three weeks.
''I still love the game, still love the work, still love to be with the guys,'' Backstrom said, his eyes reddened and his lip quivering. ''But you never know.''
Sieloff, summoned from the AHL by the Flames for their meaningless season finale, scored with 5:54 remaining. That was just 31 seconds after Brandon Bollig's goal tied the game against Wild backup Darcy Kuemper, who coughed up the lead after Dubnyk was pulled as promised halfway through the second period to rest.
The Wild were scoreless on five power plays and went 0 for 16 over the last six games. They were outshot 14-5 in the third period.
''We've got to get all 20 players going, and that's the bottom line,'' interim coach John Torchetti said. ''We don't have all 20 players going here.''
After ending a five-year absence from the playoffs last season, the Flames fell backward and were eliminated weeks ago from contention. They summoned three players from the AHL for their NHL debut, sending forward Turner Elson and defensemen Oliver Kylington and Sieloff onto the ice in the starting lineup. The 18-year-old Kylington was a second-round draft pick by the Flames in 2015 from Sweden.
Sieloff scored on a bad bounce when he chipped the puck toward the net from the wing and it ricocheted over Kuemper's glove into the corner of the net. The 21-year-old Sieloff, a second-round draft pick by the Flames in 2012, felt butterflies during warmups when he spotted more family members than expected in the seats.
''I almost teared up just because of how emotional it was,'' he said.
NOTES: Dubnyk finished with 32 victories, third-most in Wild history. Backstrom had 37 in 2008-09 and 33 in 2007-08. ... Wild LW Zach Parise, who had a hat trick in the last game against Backstrom and the Flames, was held out for ''maintenance.'' He still led the team with 25 goals despite missing 12 games. ... Five Wild players (Charlie Coyle, Mikael Granlund, Mikko Koivu, Nino Niederreiter and Ryan Suter) played in all 82 games this season. That's a franchise record, beating the four from 2006-07. ... The Wild set a new team mark with an average paid per-game attendance this season of 19,062.