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Calgary Flames' head coach Bob Hartley, centre, celebrates with the team after an empty net goal and victory over the Los Angeles Kings during NHL action in Calgary, Alta., Thursday April 9, 2015.Larry MacDougal/The Canadian Press

Hollywood endings have been a feature of the Los Angeles Kings' narrative for the past couple of years – what with the two Stanley Cup championships, the three trips to the Western Conference final, all those amazing Game 7 comebacks.

But eventually, you can only write so many sequels to a time-worn script before it needs a new denouement.

That sudden jolt of reality set in on a cool spring Thursday night at the Scotiabank Saddledome, when those season-long lovable underdogs, the Calgary Flames, rode two first-period goals by Johnny Gaudreau and Jiri Hudler to a 3-1 victory over the visiting Kings, eliminating Los Angeles from playoff contention.

"What an amazing feeling," said Hudler, after Calgary's victory put the Flames in the playoffs for the first time since the 2008-09 season and also guaranteed that the Winnipeg Jets have made the post-season for the first time since relocating from Atlanta in 2011.

Altogether, it means that four Canadian teams have officially qualified for the Stanley Cup playoffs and a fifth, the Ottawa Senators, took a major step forward as well. The Senators won their game Thursday night, on the road against the New York Rangers, and then said a silent word of thanks to the Florida Panthers, who defeated the Boston Bruins.

Ottawa's win lifted the Senators into seventh place in the Eastern Conference standings, one point ahead of the Pittsburgh Penguins (who hold a game in hand) and two ahead of the slumping Bruins. Ottawa can earn a playoff spot with a win in its final game of the regular season, Saturday against the Philadelphia Flyers. The Montreal Canadiens and the Vancouver Canucks had previously earned their playoff spots some time ago.

All in all, it was another sensational day for the NHL's Canadian content, which will collectively bid to end a Stanley Cup drought that dates back to 1993, when the Canadiens last won the title behind the goaltending of Patrick Roy.

Calgary will play Vancouver in the opening round, guaranteeing that at least one Canadian team will play in the second round.

Winnipeg, meanwhile, will go into the playoffs as the second wild card in the Western Conference after a 1-0 shootout loss to the Colorado Avalanche and will play either the Anaheim Ducks or the St. Louis Blues in their first round.

Anaheim currently leads the Western Conference with 107 points and can wrap up the conference title and home ice advantage for the first three rounds with a win against the Arizona Coyotes in their regular-season finale. The only other team that can reel in Anaheim atop the conference standings is the St. Louis Blues, who clinched the Central Division title Thursday.

Calgary finishes the season with a game against the Jets in Winnipeg Saturday – and suddenly a game that looked as if it could mean everything, means little in the grand scheme of things.

Winnipeg will get the suspended Dustin Byfuglien back for that game and may put him in the line-up just to get game action in advance of the playoffs. But the Jets and the Flames are in a position to rest key players, with their playoff fates secure.

The Jets will be looking for the first playoff win in franchise history, after making the playoffs just once as the Atlanta Thrashers, in 2006-07, where they lost in four straight.

Bedlam erupted in the Saddledome as the Flames held off the Kings, despite a massive third-period push, keyed by the Norris Trophy candidate Drew Doughty.

Only when Hudler scored his second of the night into the empty net could they feel secure.

"I don't even know if Doughty came off the ice in the third period," said Flames' coach Bob Hartley. "Wow, what a win."

"The building was electric," added Hudler. "It exploded. It was unreal."

Hudler previously won a Stanley Cup championship with the Detroit Red Wings and is one of only a handful of Flames' players with playoff experience. However, he wasn't prepared to see this victory as an end, but as a beginning.

A series against Vancouver, said Hudler, "is going to be great – for hockey and for the NHL and for our fans. We're looking forward to it. We've got to get ready. We just don't want to be in the playoffs. We want to make things happen."

It was a sentiment Hartley echoed.

"Making the playoffs is step one," he said, "but there are many more steps to be done."

Calgary received a strong game from goaltender Jonas Hiller, who turned aside 33 of 34 shots he faced. Hiller played for Anaheim last year, when the Kings defeated them in the second playoff round, so this represents sweet revenge.

Hiller acknowledged that if someone told him at the start of the year that the Flames would be the team that knocked off the defending Stanley Cup champions, "I would have said, 'no way, keep dreaming.' But everybody in here was believing in that dream. We had big goals and it's always great when you find a way to meet them."

The fact that the Kings are out and the Bruins on the ropes signals a changing of the guard – for this year anyway – and further muddies the question of who is legitimately a Stanley Cup contender.

One of the Kings strongest games in recent weeks came when they won a convincing 4-2 decision over the Rangers in New York, and appeared to be surging again at just the right time. New York, which lost last year's Stanley Cup final in five games to the Kings, will enter post-season play with the best record in the NHL, and the President's Trophy.

For the past three years, the Kings have always been a better team in the post-season than in the regular season, but this year, could never get their act together. They lost their No. 2 defence pair of Willie Mitchell and Slava Voynov – Mitchell to free agency, Voynov because of a pending domestic violence charge that saw him suspended by the league – and could never replace their minutes. Sutter, the Kings' coach, said afterward that with his own team on the sidelines, he would now cheer for the Flames.