Flames Clinch 6th In Comeback 

Kiprusoff GAA Record In Tact

April 2nd, 2004

A skip, a hop and the NHL's all-time scoring leader on left wing saw a gaping, open net pass him by.

Thanks to Luc Robitaille's missed opportunity in the second period, Calgary's Miikka Kiprusoff may well have set a modern NHL record for the lowest goals against average in a season last night in Los Angeles, stopping 15 shots in a 3-2 Flames win against the Kings.

Given backup Roman Turek is a probable starter in Anaheim Sunday afternoon, Kiprusoff's 2003-2004 statistics are most likely now written in stone, his GAA finishing at 1.70, edging out the all-time NHL record of 1.72 established only last year by Marty Turco in Dallas.

If this was indeed the last action of the schedule for the unlikely Kiprusoff, the new NHL record may go a long way towards forcing voters to consider him for the Vezina Trophy, in spite of only 38 appearances this season.

The victory, the third in a row for the Flames, leaves Calgary 42-29-7-3 on the season, good for 94 points and now with sixth place clinched in the NHL's dramatic Western Conference.

Calgary still has a shot at fifth place, only one point in arrears of Dallas, each team with a single game left to play this weekend.

This has been nothing short of a remarkable odyssey for the 27 year-old Kiprusoff, now 24-10-4 on the season.

Starting the year riding the bench or watching from the stands, a veritable after-thought in San Jose, Kiprusoff has been nothing short of a revelation in Calgary, the primary steadying force in helping the Flames break a seven year playoff drought.

The GAA record, if indeed coach Darryl Sutter gives Kiprusoff the day off in Anaheim, may well have gone for naught save for a glorious, missed opportunity from Robitaille, standing unattended beside the Flames net, Kiprusoff well out of the picture, only to see the puck seem to hit a rut in the ice and bounce over his stick as the open net was yawning in his face.

Had Kiprusoff allowed another goal, Turco's record would have been safe.

From there it was probably one of the easier nights of the season for Kiprusoff, in spite of two first period goals.

That couldn't be said of his counterpart Cristobal Huet at the other end of the ice, the Kings netminder staring down the frantic, point blank efforts of Flames Jarome Iginla, the Calgary sniper pounding seven shots at Huet through the night in an effort to pull ahead of Atlanta's Ilya Kovalchuk and Rick Nash of Columbus in the race for the Rocket Richard Trophy, emblematic of the NHL's top scorer.

Iginla had numerous opportunities from close range, all the chances he could have wished for to put some distance between himself and his two pursuers, but ended the night in a three way tie for the goal scoring title after Kovalchuk picked up his 40th of the season earlier in the evening.

The race for the Rocket Richard Trophy is becoming one of the slower moving epics in NHL history, the trio at least ahead of the 39 notched by Bronco Horvath of Boston and Bobby Hull of Chicago in 1959-60, although that's a mark set in a 70 game schedule.

You might have to go back to the league-leading 33 scored by Ted Lindsey of Detroit in 1947-48, a pace of 39 if converted to an 82 game schedule, to see a slower race in the last 50 years.

But it is a testament to Kiprusoff's casual, if not steely steadiness this season that the potential Rocket Richard Trophy winner is likely not even the most valuable player on this Flames team.

For those keeping track, Iginla actually logged 18:26 in ice time, about three minutes less than he was logging in the drive to the playoffs last month, perhaps hinting that Sutter is already thinking ahead to next week when the second season begins in earnest.

LA opened scoring at 12:48 of the first period, a five on three advantage closing out just as ex-Flame Jeff Cowan lifted a loose puck over a falling Kiprusoff.

A pure speed play tied it for the Flames, Martin Gelinas starting it with a pass up-ice to Chris Clark then Gelinas miraculously appearing unimpeded in front of the Kings net for a tip-in of the ensuing blind pass from Clark at 17:21.

But the Kings regained their lead only seconds later, Sean Avery retrieving a loose puck behind the Calgary net and passing to a wide open Eric Belanger in the slot at 18:32.

From there, it was pretty much all Calgary.

Flames tied the game on a powerplay in the second period, Jordan Leopold catching everyone on the ice thinking "shot" as he passed cross-ice to a wide-open Matthew Lombardi for his 15th of the season at 13:09.

Lombardi scored his second of the night and the eventual game winner at 13:54 of the third period, Gelinas speeding into the Kings zone then waiting before tossing a perfect pass to his linemate for a sparkling goal behind Huet.

Flames were one-for-four on the power play while directing 26 shots at Huet. Kings scored once on their two extra man advantages.

Next up is Anaheim Sunday afternoon . . . . . then the PLAYOFFS!!





1) Matthew Lombardi - After fading badly in mid-season, the kid is finding his legs again, scoring twice to ice the Kings. 

2) Martin Gelinas - Played with energy all night and a key component in the victory with a goal and an assist 

3) Cristobal Huet - It would have been easy to give this spot to Kiprusoff, but Huet was really the only reason the Kings were even close in this game.

Sprung loose on a breakaway late in the first period, a chance to tie the game, Shean Donovan was stymied by a quick Huet as the Calgary forward tried to drive the puck five-hole.

Late in the first period, Nathan Dempsey tried to claim the Calgary zone only to be sent hurtling to the ice after being stood up by Calgary defenceman Rhett Warrener.

Huet isn't taking any chances, apparently signing a contract to play in the Swiss Elite League next season in anticipation of an NHL lockout. The timing of the contract raised eyebrows, coming as it does before the conclusion of his current contract in LA. But he won't be the last to get his ducks in order. . . . . . Calgary entered the final weekend of the season with the potential to face any one of four opponents in the first round of the playoffs . . . . . Flames were 58% in the faceoff circle, led by Marcus Nilson who was a monstrous 76%. Belanger was 66% for the Kings. . . . . .Regehr led the Flames in ice time with 21:19. Nathan Dempsey was at 23:19 for the Kings . . . . Los Angeles lost its 10th in a row, tying a club record. If not for their immense injury issues, you might have had to call a "choke" But their heart was on display throughout the season. . . . . . It was a sellout at the Staples Center, 18,247. . . . .

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

Regehr Leopold 
Gauthier Warrener 
Ference Commodore


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