Late Goal Heroics Lifts Flames

Kiprusoff Brilliant in Avalanche White Out

February 24th, 2004

What do you do when you're the last line of defence for a hockey team that has seemingly lost their offensive touch?

Pitch a shut out. In a very tough arena. Against a very tough opponent.

Calgary's most recent media Darling, Miikka Kiprusoff, he of many a mention in publication in both Canada and the United States in recent weeks, stared down the Avalanche and their arsenal of high end talent to close the door in a well played 2-0 Calgary Flames victory.

You'll have to forgive the quiet spoken goaltender for stealing a little of that Olympic focus away from teammate Jarome Iginla and opponents Rob Blake, Adam Foote and Joe Sakic - as the win comes two years to the day of Canada's gold medal triumph in Salt Lake City, as he and Swiss goaltender David Aebischer stole the international spot light in a solid goalie duel.

In a game that very much represented the fact that hockey doesn't have to be high scoring to be entertaining - despite a recent general manager meeting that has the brethren looking to change every facet of the game save the colour of the puck, both teams were full marks for effort in this one.

Kiprusoff was the difference in the first period, turning aside nine Colorado shots, most of which came on two nail biting powerplays.

Early on he tossed the glove hand out to snare a shot from Riku Hahl, and later a goal post saved his fate but the score was tied through one period, giving the Flames a chance to settle things down.

"You have to make the big saves. That's how you win", Kiprusoff simply stated to Sportsnet after the game.

The Flames and Aves played another scoreless period in the second with the visitors holding an edge in shots, but the Denver squad holding the edge in blue chip chances.

Of particular note was a great butterfly save Kiprusoff managed on Milan Hejduk on a Denver three on two to keep the game deadlocked.

The third period was another back and forth affair with the Flames coming alive in the last five minutes and getting some of their best chances of the night.

First Jarome Iginla almost swiped home a Joe Sakic miscue ... later both Chris Clark and Steven Reinprecht had great chances down low but had the puck slither just wide of the net.

The game's first goal was predictably an ugly one when Martin Gelinas had the puck bounce off his torso and past Aebischer for the game winner. The Flames had good pressure and used the cycle to get the puck out to Craig Conroy who reversed direction and flipped the puck at the net.

"I was trying to get my glove up to catch it, but it hit me and it went in", Gelinas told Sportsnet.

Calgary fans got a very good look at how important Stephane Yelle can be to the club's late season fortunes in the last minute. The veteran, returning from a six week knee injury fell in front of a slap shot resulting in a Chris Clark empty net goal to put things away.

The win was all important for the Flames on many a front.

Number one it vaults them from 8th spot to 5th, leaping Nashville, L.A. and Dallas in the process. Secondly it ends what was shaping up to be a dismal road trip on a great note, moving the five game juncture to 2-3-0, a record that few would have minded before they set out.

Things don't get a whole lot easier from here as the Flames now head home to take on the Detroit Red Wings. The Wings have played in Edmonton on Monday and Vancouver tonight, giving the Flames a possible edge with the veteran legs having to slug out three games in four nights.

For the last word on the big win tonight, we once again give you the game's first star.

"It was a tough game. We'll probably play these guys in the playoffs too."

Now that's the spirit. For a guy that can find a shut out for a team that can't score, you almost have to believe him.





1 Miikka Kiprusoff - The Flames played well defensively, but when they got through Kiprusoff was at his solid, calm best.

2 David Aebischer - Lucky goal ended what looked like a classic 0-0 goalie stand off.

3 Robyn Regehr - Did his best to mimic Adam Foote at the other end, a nasty SOB to play against all night for Colorado's galaxy of forward stars.

There were plenty of solid hits in this game, three or four from Rob Blake on Oleg Saprykin alone, but the best falls to a Rob Blake hip to board check on Stephane Yelle in the second period. It hurt to see it on TV, can't imagine how it felt from Yelle's perspective.

The Avalanche broke in on a three on two in the second, moved the puck to the middle and pushed the puck on to Milan Hejduk's stick as he came out of a screen and into the slot. Kiprusoff launched out his right pad in the splits to take the bottom half of the net away and stone the all star winger.

Calgary had two powerplay chances in the game and came up empty on both of them. The result was the only thing the two chances had in common. The first chance was the unit at their best. Patient ... moving the puck around ... forcing odd man situations ... generating scoring chances. The second? A complete gong show that couldn't even get the puck in. ... Oleg Saprykin has his best game in many a night playing alongside returnee Stephane Yelle.  .... Speaking of new lines, the Flames walked out an all Denver line when Dean McAmmond centered Steven Reinprecht and Shean Donovan. ... The first unit had more jump as well with Martin Gelinas patrolling the port side with Conroy and Iginla. ... To complete the look, with Yelle back the fourth line was much more effective with Matthew Lombardi replacing Josh Green on a line with Chuck Kobasew and Oliwa. ... So where does the newly acquired Ville Niemenen fit? Look for one of Saprykin or Kobasew to sit a night or two out. ... The Flames managed over 19 shots for the first time on the road trip, managing 25 to the Avalanche's 26 tonight. ... The Avalanche edged out the duel for the dot, taking 52% of the draws. Interesting to note that face off ace Stephane Yelle, was a brutal 38% on the night as he struggled to find his timing. Dean McAmmond led the way by winning 63% of his draws. ... Darryl Sutter seems to have all his players on a pretty tight shift length leash. Every one of the dressed 18 skaters averaged between 33 and 45 seconds. ... Rhett Warrener took the ice time crown away from Robyn Regehr and Jordan Leopold on the night, pulling down 22:01 of work. Jarome Iginla led all forwards with 19:34. ... Rob Blake was the game's champ with an incredible 22:55 in his first game back from a hair line fracture in his leg. ... The Flames, eight game over .500, are back on a 90 point pace after the win. They sit five points back of the fourth place Canucks who are tied with the Red Wings in Vancouver at press time. Their cushion for a playoff spot is back up to three points over the coach-less St. Louis Blues. The Flames are back to nine points up on the 10th place Edmonton Oilers strengthening the possibility of a five team race for four playoff spots.

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