Flames Bounce Back In Desert

Turek Rules The Crease With 2nd Straight Shut Out

March 24th, 2004

The forgotten man is coming up awfully large as the season winds down.

Roman Turek, he of the gigantic contract and zero fan following, is suddenly turning into the goalie Craig Button thought he was signing two seasons ago, stopping 22 shots last night in a 4-0 blanking of the Coyotes in Phoenix, handing the Flames yet another critical win in the stretch drive to the playoffs.

It was the second straight shutout for Turek, his stellar play of late providing some measure of redemption for an injury-riddled season made all the more ignomious by a vitriol spewing home crowd that had left even coach Darryl Sutter admitting it impossible to start him at the Saddledome.

But Turek has rebounded since the return of rival and de facto number one netminder Miikka Kiprusoff, the presence of the latter seemingly allowing "Large" a chance to find his game without the pressure of a city desperate for the playoffs riding on his shoulders.

Even news he had been placed on waivers just ahead of the NHL trade deadline earlier in the month has done little to damper Turek's improvement, the Calgary netminder generating a .948 save percentage in his last seven starts, well above his career numbers.

"He's been really sharp," said Jordan Leopold of Turek on FAN960 after the game. "He's been sharp in practice. He's been having a lot of fun."

It was also the tenth shutout of the season for the Flames, a new franchise record. Oddly, four of those shutouts came from the departed Jamie McLennan with Turek and Kiprusoff having three each.

For the Flames, the math is becoming pretty simple, only five starts left in this season and a seven point edge on ninth place St. Louis, Calgary now all but guaranteed a playoff berth for the first time in seven years.

Should Calgary win only one more of its remaining games, the Blues would need to secure ten of their remaining 14 points to pass the Flames, and that would be assuming other teams in the race would do the same to push Calgary into ninth.

In other words, its been a long marathon but sprinting to the finish may no longer be necessary.

As if the news wasn't good enough already, Jarome Iginla blew past Ladislav Suchy along the Coyotes sideboards and scored his 39th goal of the season early in the third period, driving the puck threw the pads of Phoenix starter Brent Johnston.

The goal ties Iginla for the league lead with Columbus's Rick Nash and Atlanta's Ilya Kovalchuk i the race for the Rocket Richard Trophy, handed to the pre-eminent goal scorer in the NHL.

All three are on pace for 42 markers in an 82 game campaign, the lowest total to win a goal scoring title since Norm Ullman of Detroit, whose 42 goals led the six team NHL in 1964-65.

Yes, 40 years ago.

But Ullman amassed his total in a 70 game schedule, meaning the projection through 82 games might better equate to 49 for Ullman, leaving the modern day trio of Kovalchuk, Iginla and Nash well short.

In fact, on a pro-rata basis, we might have to look back at Dickie Moore's league-leading 36 goals in 1957-58, a pace of 42 in an 82 game schedule, as the mark Iginla, Kovalchuk and Nash is really looking to exceed.

The victory leaves Calgary one win shy of a 40 win season, now 39-28-7-3 on the year with 88 points, only one point shy of fifth place Vancouver and now six points ahead of seventh place Nashville.

It was Turek who was tapped on the shoulder to start in St Louis two weeks ago, shouldering the burden of a Flames team on a daunting road swing and clinging to a playoff spot but coming through with a brilliant 3-0 effort. With Kiprusoff starting the last four and losing two in a row, showing some wear from carrying the Flames on his back through much of the last two months, Turek's steady play on this night was all the more welcome.

If anything, Sutter may finally have the perfect scenario he's longed for, a competition between two highly competent netminders heading into the playoffs.

Calgary entered the game fourth overall in NHL goaltending. Sutter had set a target of a top ten finish in that area prior to the start of the campaign, a goal scoffed at by many observers given Calgary's habitual placing somewhere south of 20th.

Some small measure of satisfaction might have also come to Turek from beating Johnson given the latter had taken Turek's place in St. Louis three seasons ago amid much fanfare, Turek driven from that town after being tarred and feathered. Johnson himself would suffer the same fate earlier this season and looked less than stellar in this game.

Marcus Nilson opened scoring for the Flames at 11:11 of the first period, finding a Ville Nieminen pass in the slot and one-timing it through Johnson's legs.

Craig Conroy was clubbed to the ice by Krys Kolanos in the second period, the Calgary centre suffering a cut in the eye area and leaving for repairs before coming back later in the period and scoring his seventh on the season on his first shift, finishing off a two-on-one break with Iginla at 10:51.

After Iginla had given Calgary a 3-0 edge, Denis Gauthier saw his stick explode on a point shot, but the arching puck punched into the Phoenix net by Martin Gelinas at 3:45.

Flames directed 31 shots at Johnston and were one for three on the powerplay while Phoenix failed to score on three extra man advantages.

The hapless Coyotes are now winless in 11 straight in their new home, Glendale Arena, although attracting a decent crowd tonight.

Calgary won its 21st road game of the year, one short of the franchise record of 22 set in four prior campaigns, 1988-1990 and 1993. With three road games remaining, this version of the Flames, improbable though it may seem, has a chance to at least tie that mark.

Next up is the imposing Sharks in San Jose.





1) Roman Turek - Matched Johnson save for save early on then watched as the Flames patiently pulled away.

2) Craig Conroy - Whipped by a high stick near the eye, Conroy's first shift back from repairs saw him score his seventh of the year while assisting on Iginla's 39th later in the game.

3) Denis Gauthier - It's been an up and down season for Gauthier but a steady game this night.

Hanging onto a precarious 1-0 lead, Turek stared down Ivan Novoseltsev from point blank range, the Coyote forward drilling a one-timer on a pass from Daymond Langkow late in the first period.

Shane Doan left Oleg Saprykin a writhing wreck after catching the Flames forward along the boards early in the third period.

Calgary's penalty killing has limited opponents to zero in the last six games but the powerplay entered the game with only one goal in its last 25 opportunities. . . . . . Derek Morris indicated in a FAN960 interview he was happy to be moved to also-ran Phoenix from Cup contender Colorado, an odd attitude to have. But Morris insisted declining ice time, losing his job effectively to John Liles had him eager to leave. . . . . . The fight card had Denis Gauthier and Tyson Nash while Chuck Kobasew went with Matthew Spiller. The odd confrontation of the night had Brad Ference socking Sonnenberg from behind in a situation with some eerie connections to the Todd Bertuzzi ambuscade of Steve Moore a few weeks ago, without the consequences. . . Shean Donovan hasn't scored in 25 games, mirroring his career. Yet he's found new life on a line with Nilson and Niemen, the swift pests providing plenty of offence since their formation. . . . . . In a freak statistical occurrence, defence partners Robyn Regehr and Jordan Leopold logged exactly the same amount of ice time, 22:22, leading the Flames. . . . . . Langkow had 25:32 in ice time for the Coyotes, a punishing pace for a forward in today's NHL. Considering he was a minus two, perhaps long shifts were the reason Phoenix lost. . . . . . Nilson led the Flames in the faceoff circle with a 60% success rate, elevating the overall team winning percentage of 52%. . . . . . Krys Kolanos was 66% for Phoenix. . . . . . "Unlike our teams in the past where we've lost four or five games in a row, we've been able to stop any losing streak really quick so that's what we're going to try and do with this one so we can head into the playoffs on a roll," forward Chris Clark said. . . . . . Chris Simon sat out the first game of a two game suspension for kneeing Dallas's Sergei Zubov. Krzysztof Oliwa was serving the second of a three game suspension while Sutter, banished for criminal activity at the end of the Nashville game on the weekend, is eligible to return in San Jose.

Saprykin Conroy Iginla 
Neiminen Nilson Donovan 
Gelinas Yelle Clark 
Sonnenberg Lombardi Kobasew

Gauthier Warrener 
Commodore Ference 
Regehr Leopold


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