CALGARY - It was a bittersweet night for rookie centre Mark Jankowski.
Jankowski scored four times, collecting his first NHL hat trick, as the Calgary Flames finished off a disappointing season with a 7-1 victory over the Vegas Golden Knights on Saturday.
"Not the way we wanted it to end, we want to keep on playing, but definitely a building year," said the 23-year-old, who had just three points (two goals, one assist) in his previous 18 games. "I just take everything I learned this year from all the vets and use that as fuel in the summer to come back into camp and even better player."
Calgary entered the night in a miserable funk offensively having mustered only nine goals over the previous nine games, eight of them losses. The seven goals was the club's biggest offensive outburst since they beat St. Louis 7-4 on Nov. 13.
"It's one of those things. Tonight, for some reason, everything bounced in and I think we could have had even more," said Flames captain Mark Giordano. "It's nice to end it on that note, but it's been a tough year and obviously a disappointing year."
Before the game, players from both teams along with the officials formed a circle at centre ice for a moment of silence in tribute to the 15 people who lost their lives in the Humboldt Broncos bus accident.
"You have those guys, that community, the team, on your mind all day," said Giordano. "We're one big community, the hockey community, there's a lot of people feeling this one."
Afterwards, the Saddledome crowd broke into a chant of "Broncos, Broncos".
"We talked a lot to our guys about the emotion and the purity of the game. Just think about the young men on that bus, who would love to be in the seats that we are. That was their goal and we wanted to play as well as we can to honour that," said Flames coach Glen Gulutzan.
Spencer Foo with his second in as many games, Garnet Hathaway and Johnny Gaudreau also scored for the Flames (37-35-10), who miss the playoffs for the seventh time in the past nine seasons. A big factor was Calgary's 17-20-4 home record, its worst mark since 2000-01 (12-18-11).
Cody Eakin scored for Vegas (51-24-7), which after finishing first in the Pacific will open the Stanley Cup playoffs on home ice against Los Angeles. Vegas is the first modern-era expansion team in any of the four North America pro spots to win its division in its first season.
"Right from the start it's been a fun season," said Vegas goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury. "It's fun to be a part of this team and this organization through it all. I'm really proud of the way this team has done throughout the season. Playoffs are fun, intense, exciting. I'm looking forward to getting it going."
Golden Knights veteran James Neal was impressed at how quickly the team gelled after being thrown together at the expansion draft.
"What impressed me most about our group is the consistency we played with, the way we rolled four lines, we counted on each player and needed each guy every night and every guy brought their game."
Down 3-0 after the first period, Vegas scored 51 seconds into the second. But the Flames responded with three more unanswered goals before the period ended.
Jankowski capped off his hat trick with a short-handed goal at 18:06, bringing over 100 hats raining down onto the ice.
Jankowski completed the scoring at 1:32 of the third. It was Calgary's first power-play goal in 14 games, snapping an 0 for 35 skid.
Jon Gillies had 26 stops to finish the season 3-5-1. Fleury gave up six goals on 18 shots before being replaced to start the third period. He falls to 29-13-4.
Malcolm Subban had 12 stops in relief.
Notes: Both teams wore Humboldt Broncos decals on their helmet. The Flames also announced they were donating their $84,055 half of the 50/50 prize pot to those affected by Friday's tragedy.