Flames Win Another In OT 

Steve Montador the Hero on Iginla Pass 

May 9th, 2004

The legend grows.

From a third stringer to a Vezina Trophy candidate and holder of a modern day NHL record for goals against, it is hard to imagine Mikka Kipruoff could actually improve on his miracle season for the Calgary Flames.

But a remarkable 49 save performance in San Jose, lifting the unlikely Calgary Flames to a 4-3 overtime victory in the opening game of the Western Conference Final, will only add to the legend that is becoming Kiprusoff in these 2003- 2004 playoffs.

Through the first round against Vancouver, Jarome Iginla was clearly Calgary's best player, with Kiprusoff in the background delivering a workmanlike performance, if occasionally spectacular, against the Canucks.

Since then, however, it's been Kiprusoff broadly carrying the Flames on his shoulders, two 1-0 shutouts to end Detroit's season prematurely and now this, his most remarkable performance of the season, putting the Flames only three wins away from a berth in the Stanley Cup final.

Not that Iginla hasn't been there, the Calgary captain extending his point streak to five games and assisting on the winner for the third game in a row in spite of being rendered largely invisible through much of the afternoon by his designated shadow, Scott Hannan of the Sharks.

It was Iginla, taking advantage of a horrendous San Jose line change, who found Steve Montador careening unmolested into the slot, the underdog Calgary defender waiting out San Jose netminder Evgeni Nabokov before ringing the post for the decisive marker at 18:43 of the first extra period.

Since 1989, Calgary had only one overtime win in ten tries but is now beginning to emulate the 1993 Montreal Canadiens who were 10-1 in extra periods on their way to a Stanley Cup championship.

Flames are now 4-1 in overtime to date while the Sharks dropped their third in a row in extra time.

The win was the first for Calgary in games where they've surrendered three or more goals, the Flames entering the contest with zero wins in four previous starts. Calgary is 8-1 in games where they've given up two or fewer goals.

In truth though, this game had a lot to do with Kiprusoff, the Sharks outdistancing Calgary in scoring chances by a country mile although Nabokov at the other end was no slouch either, facing 37 Flames shots by the time the night was done and not really to blame on any of the goals he surrendered.

Although up 1-0 in the series, it would be fair to say the Sharks were easily the better team in this game for large swaths of time, the Flames failing to match San Jose's work ethic and being repeatedly hemmed in its own end in embarrassing fashion for shifts on end.

"They are a very, very fast team, maybe the fastest of the three we've faced in the playoffs," agreed Montador in comments on FAN960 after the game.

"It wasn't two teams trying to trap or put a stranglehold on anybody," said San Jose coach Ron Wilson of the wide open game

But it was Kiprusoff, wiping away memories of lingering, bitter memories of Trevor Kidd and the last time San Jose and Calgary met in the NHL playoffs, who proved to be the difference, his tour de force performance enough for this afternoon but one would think Calgary needs to find a different formula if it expects to eventually prevail.

Calgary opened scoring from an unlikely source, Chuck Kobasew taking advantage of a fortuitous bounce of the glass in the San Jose end, passing out to Oleg Saprykin who then had the rebound on his turnaround shot lifted over Nabokov by Krzysztof Oliwa at 9:26 of the first period.

Flames added to their lead on a two of one break, Shean Donovan shovelling the puck past the San Jose defence and springing loose Craig Conroy, the assistant captain faking pass to Marcus Nilson then electing to pop the water bottle behind a falling Nabokov as the first period was closing out.

For the Flames, the two goals marked the first time they had scored in the first period since Game 2 against Vancouver.

The Sharks threw 18 shots at Kiprusoff in the period, including five on a full five minute two man advantage which may have been the decisive moment in the game for the Sharks given they couldn't beat the Calgary netminder.

The Sharks broke Kiprusoff's playoff shutout streak at 170:34, a harmless looking shot boinking off the mask of the Flames netminder and Mike Ricci brilliantly swatting the puck backhanded into the net as he was falling to the ice at 1:23 of the first.

San Jose eventually tied the game at 19:02 of the second, the dreaded goal in the last minute, Todd Harvey deflecting an easy point shot through the wickets of Kiprusoff at 19:02.

Flames began to take over this game in the third period, hemming the Sharks in their own zone for several shifts before Conroy lined up a perfect screen shot from near the San Jose blueline, lifting the Flames into a 3-2 lead at 9:25.

From seeming to have the game squarely in control, Calgary coughed up the equalizer with only 3:21 left in the period, Alex Korolyuk lifting another harmless flutterball off the stick of Stephane Yelle from the sideboards, arching over Kiprusoff's shoulder to force overtime.

The Flames were clearly hanging on for much of this game, the Sharks swift counterattack all it was advertised to be while the Flames patented defensive game was no where in sight.

They were more than a bit lucky to win this game . . . . but will no doubt take it.

Flames were zero for two on the powerplay and San Jose was scoreless in four opportunities.

Next up is a return match in San Jose on Tuesday night.





1)Miikka Kiprusoff - A tremendous first period where the Flames were outshot 18-11, saw Calgary emerging with a 2-0 lead, all thanks to the superlative work of the Calgary netminder 

2)Stephane Yelle - The blocked shots earned a star all by themselves. 

3)Scott Hannan - the measure of Scott Hannan in this game will be the stats, or lack thereof, of his key opponent, Iginla, the Flames captain barely noticeable in the face of his designated shadow until the final moment with the young Shark defender on the bench.

Difficult to pick just one out of a bushel, but Kiprusoff's left pad save on a nifty, in close, one timer from the stick of Wayne Primeau late in the second period might have qualified but Alex Korolyuk's turnaround attempt with the Calgary netminder desperately slapping his paddle to the ice to protect an open net is the one we'll pick.

Niko Dimitrakos was dazzling in the first period as he dangled the puck crossing the Calgary blueline then was dropped like a sack of potatoes by the hard, neanderthal shoulder of Mike Commodore.

Matthew Lombardi missed the opening whistle, the lingering result of his head being cracked open like a melon against the elbow of Darian Hatcher in Game 6 against Detroit. . . . . The opening round of the Scott Hannan/Alyn McCauley team against Iginla war probably went to the Sharks, although it should be noted Iginla's centre scored twice and Iginla assisted on the winner. . . . . Brad Stuart played 9:04 of the first period, easily the most of any player on the ice and finished with 32:31 to lead the Sharks. Jordan Leopold led the Flames with 32:48. . . . . Craig Conroy led the Flames in the faceoff circle with a 59% success percentage, although calgary was only 49% on the afternoon. Alyn McCauley was 63% for the Sharks . . . . . The Sharks seemed to be keying on Mike Commodore, a slower member of Calgary's defence corps, the young defender coughing the puck up repeatedly before being benched for much of the third period. . . . . .Oliwa was in the lineup at the expense of Dave Lowry, who had turned in two workmanlike games against Detroit. . . . . . Chris Simon had an uneven start in his first appearance since Game 2 against Vancouver, bounced up and down the lineup, getting some good chances to score but also the guilty party in putting the Flames down two men midway through the first period.

Gelinas Conroy Iginla 
Nieminen Nilson Donovan 
Simon Yelle Clark 
Oliwa Kobasew Saprykin

Regehr Montador 
Ference Commodore 
Warrener Leopold

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