McElhinney made 35 saves for his first NHL victory, Mike Cammalleri scored two goals and added an assist, and the Flames beat the Edmonton Oilers 4-1 on Saturday night in the regular-season finale for both teams.
"My left eye is burning considerably right now, but for the win they could put anything in my face tonight. It felt great," McElhinney said.
McElhinney, starting in place of workhorse Miikka Kiprusoff, improved to 1-6-1 this season and 1-8-1 overall. The former Colorado College star has started seven games and made 19 NHL appearances.
"Obviously it's been a long time," McElhinney said. "Unfortunately, I've been here for over 100 games and I've had to be extremely patient playing behind Kip, but tonight felt great and it's a nice way for us to head into the playoffs."
Craig Conroy and Jamie Lundmark also scored for the Flames, relegated to the fifth seed in the Western Conference playoffs after Vancouver beat Colorado to win the Northwest Division. Calgary will face fourth-seeded Chicago in the first round.
"Now we know we're going to start on the road and we're going to get ready for that," Flames captain Jarome Iginla said. "Chicago, we think, is a good matchup for us. It's going to be a really good atmosphere in both buildings. They've got a good young team. It's going to be great and I'm looking forward to it."
Conroy praised the 25-year-old McElhinney.
"Unbelievable, he was our best player by far," Conroy said. "He was fun to watch. He is that good. He just doesn't get many opportunities and when he does, it's usually back-to-back and you know we haven't played that well in back-to-backs."
Defenseman Tom Gilbert scored for the Oilers, out of the playoffs for the third straight season since losing to Carolina in the 2006 Stanley Cup final. The Oilers lost eight of their final 11 games.
"It's tough to get up for these last couple games when you're not playing for much," Edmonton winger Andrew Cogliano said. "We had so many games that mattered in the past 25 games or so and to come and play two games at the end here that really didn't matter much was tough."
After Gilbert opened the scoring at 2:19 of the first period, Cammalleri tied it at 8:26 of the second. Cammalleri put a backhander toward the net that went through defenseman Taylor Chorney's legs and then through goalie Jeff Deslauriers's pads.
Cammalleri, set to become an unrestricted free agent after the season, put the Flames ahead with 4:08 left in the period with his team-high 39th goal. Cammalleri's shot from the slot found the top corner beyond Delaurier's glove.
Conroy and Lundmark scored in the third period.
- John Negrin assisted on Lundmark's goal for his first NHL point.
- Calgary was 0-for-2 on the power play.