Flames Even the Score 

Iginla and Kiprusoff Solid in Win

April 9th, 2004

You gotta dance with the one's that brung ya'.

Challenged by their coach to show up, Calgary's stars did just that last night against the Canucks, the Rocket Richard Trophy winner and a potential Vezina Trophy winner powering the Flames to a dramatic 2-1 victory in front of 18,630 at GM Place.

In a game that gave lie to the Ken Dryden's claim that NHL hockey is declining into the status of an "extreme sport, these two teams went to war in a no holds barred, physical, end-to-end and definitely entertaining affair, the Flames scoring two quick goals early in the first period before riding the 25 save goaltending of Miikka Kiprusoff through to their first playoff victory since a 5-0 win over San Jose in 1995.

It was Dryden a month ago who attested NHL hockey was drifting into the status of an extreme sport, destined to be marginalized out of the mainstream of North American attention.

But games like this, particularly the physical play and general combativeness of both teams, the kind of action Dryden admits he wants to largely wipe from the ice surface, shows The Great Thinker has little to offer besides theory, the screaming crowd in Vancouver and the hollering fans at sports bars across Calgary giving evidence of the product they really want to see.

It was much maligned Iginla scoring at 3:06 of the first period followed by a bizarre Matthew Lombardi marker only 50 seconds later that set the tone in this one, the fast goals forcing the Canucks into a comeback attempt against a Calgary team that had registered 41 of its 42 victories this year when scoring the first goal of a game.

The win allowed the Flames to gain some measure of control in this series, splitting the opening pair on the road, gaining home ice advantage in a seven game series in the opening round of the NHL playoffs and coming home to an expected crowd of over 20,000 on Sunday night when they play their first home playoff date since 1996.

Coach Darryl Sutter had blistered both Iginla and Kiprusoff in the Calgary media after the Flames 5-3 loss in the opening game of this series, blasting the dynamic duo for not being ready to go when the real season had started.

But Iginla was a dominating presence all night, emerging on this night as the playoff leader the Flames will so desperately need if they are to overcome their 15 year drought between post-season series wins.

"I thought he played with some emotion," said Sutter of Iginla after the game on FAN960. "It's important. You have to have emotional leaders."

While Kiprusoff deserves credit for settling down after a flat performance in the opening game of this series, it was really Calgary's overall defensive game which flattened the Canucks, Vancouver generating only eight shots by the midway point of the second period and now having only one even strength goal in two games, basically living off their power play to date.

In fact, the first two games have pretty much gone to script for the Flames, a team that managed only one win in games they'd given up more than three goals and victors in 41 games where they've surrendered less than two.

Flames opened scoring at 3:06 of the first period on a heady veteran play by Chris Simon, the gigantic winger twisting Cloutier's stick with his legs as he was passing through the crease, dragging the Vancouver goaltender out of position as Iginla capitalized into a partially open net.

Illegal? Only if you get caught.

Flames padded their lead only 50 seconds later on a strange play, a Jordan Leopold rebound off Cloutier tangling up in the equipment of the hapless Sami Salo, finally dropping to the ice where Matthew Lombardi rocketed the puck into the back of the net, Canucks netminder Cloutier still wondering what happened.

With Ed Jovanovski bumping Kiprusoff all the way back to Calgary, a clearly illegal play, Markus Naslund found an empty net on a four on three power play at 9:41 of the second period, referees Kerry Fraser and Don Van Massenhoven inexplicably missing the obvious call of goaltender interference.

Illegal? Only if you get caught.

For the Flames, the script couldn't have gone better as one of the best five on five teams in the league saw the referees largely put their whistles away and let these two teams hurl themselves at each other in dramatic fashion, Cloutier essentially matching Kiprusoff save for save, 26 in all, neither team asking for quarter nor offering it.

Expect more of the same.

"It's going to be a battle," said Lombardi after the game on FAN960. "It's going to be a grind from here on in. We just gotta play the way we gotta play."

"I liked our 'battle,'" said a surprisingly non-plussed Vancouver coach Marc Crawford after the game of his boys. "I liked our 'compete.' They played a very hard game. They did the things they needed to do to preserve the victory."

"I thought our game was a sound game," Crawford added. "I thought we did enough things to not be terribly disappointed."

The continued excellent play of rookies like Lombardi and Chuck Kobasew as well as relative newcomers like Oleg Saprykin is a developing storyline for the Flames, an unexpected bonus given the obvious pressures of the post-season.

For Lombardi, the winner was only ample reward for another hustling game.

"Its just a matter of channeling your emotions," said Lombardi.

Canucks were one for five on the power play while the Flames failed to score on their five extra man chances.

Next up . . . . a playoff game in Calgary. Truly. Sunday night.





1) Miikka Kiprusoff - Aided by an excellent performance by his defence corps, Kiprusoff came back from a drubbing with 25 saves, the fourth time this year he has surrendered a single goal in a winning effort after giving up four or more goals the previous night.

2) Ed Jovanovski - One of the premier pains in the ass in the league, which is just what you want to see if you're a Vancouver fan. A physical and skilled force throughout the evening.

3) Robyn Regehr - With the game on the line, a monster physical presence in the Calgary zone.

It could have easily been 2-0 Vancouver instead of the other way around in the opening minutes without Toni Lydman and Lombardi reaching behind Kiprusoff and pulling away pucks that seemed destined for the back of the net.

Easily callable and looking pretty dirty as well, Denis Gauthier cross-checked Jovanovski head first into the boards midway through the second period, the Vancouver defenceman fortunate to save himself and Gauthier fortunate there was no call.

Crawford told the post-game scrum he suspects the hitting game Vancouver is bringing to this series will eventually pay dividends later in the series. . . . . "This was a great crowd," said Sutter of the Vancouver mob, calling it a great night for Canadian hockey. . . . . . "We are a very good five on five team," said Sutter. "That's why we're a playoff team." . . . . . . Regehr led the Flames in ice time with 23:20. Krzysztof Oliwa played exactly 28 seconds, all in the first period. Mattias Ohlund played 23:54 for the Canucks. . . . . .Vancouver was 54% in the faceoff circle after dominating the dot in the third period, seemingly winning every draw . Henrik Sedin was 63% for the Canucks while Lombardi and Marcus Nilson were 46% for the Flames. . . . . . The people who might wipe that lopsided grin off the face of Ville Nieminen might be his own teammates after the formerly popular Calgary winger's boneheaded dislodging of the Calgary net in the third period, leaving the Flames with a five on three disadvantage at a critical moment of the game.

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

Regehr Leopold 
Gauthier Warrener 
Ference Lydman

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