Flames Mash the Moose 

Kiprusoff Pitches The Zero in One Sided Win

April 13th, 2004

It might have borne more resemblance to one of those god-awful, velvet, neon Snoopy's from the 1970's rather than a Rembrandt hanging in the Louvre, but the Calgary Flames won't turn down the critical, somewhat ugly but pure power victory over the Vancouver Canucks last night in front of 18,289 delirious fans at the Saddledome.

With their season perhaps hanging in the balance, the Flames benefited from a heroic effort from Stephane Yelle, returning from the injury ward, as well as critical goals from The Shame Brigade of Shean Donovan and Chris Clark as they collectively pounded the Canucks and evened their NHL best of seven opening round playoff series at two apiece.

Chris Simon and Toni Lydman fell to injuries heading into this game, the Flames desperately enlisting the aid of Yelle, the exact nature of his injury still somewhat nebulous, and the two-time Stanley Cup winning veteran responded with a sensational shorthanded goal only :58 seconds into the second period.

It was a marker that would eventually prove to be the difference, the Flames taking over this game on all levels from that point forward, rolling over the Canucks physically in a 4-0 victory, anchored by the steady 20 save goaltending of Miikka Kiprusoff.

Following Calgary's 2-1 loss on Sunday night, coach Darryl Sutter had kicked butt and named names, pointing out he had been getting "nothing" from veterans Clark, Donovan, Martin Gelinas and Denis Gauthier, among others.

But The Shame Brigade responded with two goals from Clark and Donovan only 27 seconds apart, adding to the Yelle marker earlier in the second period, visibly deflating the Canucks and essentially putting this well out of reach in the first 37 minutes.

The victory was the first in the post-season for a Flames team since a 5-0 Trevor Kidd shutout against San Jose in May, 1995, nine years ago and was also the first over Vancouver in Calgary in the last 11 games.

You probably wouldn't colour this one the same as the exciting up and down affairs we had witnessed earlier in this series, the Flames and Canucks doing their best to grind down or otherwise smother the other, both goaltenders being challenged physically at various times, four goaltender interference calls in this game but twice that many that might have been whistled.

In the end, the difference may have been Johann Hedberg, hero of game three for the Canucks but actually looking like a backup goaltender after all before this night was done.

The book on Hedberg was to shoot high and that's exactly what Yelle did on the opener, out-muscling a soft Brent Sopel in front of the Vancouver net with Hedberg hitting the ice, the puck going over his shoulder for the decisive strike of the night.

With the Canucks on a bad line change, the Flames embarked on a set play, Kiprusoff whistling the puck up ice to Gauthier who tipped to Clark at the Vancouver blueline. Clark bore down on Hedberg who guessed pass while leaving the minor league post wide open, Clark drifting his shot under the crossbar on the power play at 16:06.

Twenty-seven seconds later the Flames charged the Vancouver net en masse, dragging every Canuck within hailing distance with them, the whole mess arriving at the same time to drive Hedberg into the net just as Donovan tapped the puck with his stick, getting a fortuitous roller that gave the Flames a 3-0 edge at 16:33.

From there it was all about smothering the Canucks or otherwise chipping it off the glass, a less than artistic effort that had the sellout crowd rocking anyway because . . . . . well, winning is more fun than losing.

Vancouver coach Marc Crawford attempted to give his charges a late boost, down 3-0 and pulling Hedberg at various points in the second half of the third period, getting away with it several times before Jarome Iginla scored his second of the playoffs into an empty net at 18:13.

For any Mattias Ohlund fans, that leaves Iginla on a 41 goal pace in this series.

As the Canucks survey the wreckage from this one, they may have to concede the Flames were all about hard work, battling in the trenches, grinding it out, getting scoring from secondary sources and . . . . . of course, Kiprusoff shutting the door once again.

While the Flames netminder was lit up for five goals in the first game of this series, he has allowed only three since then and has permitted only one even strength goal in four games this series, an ominous tone if you're a supporter of the Canucks.

At the other end of the ice, it seems likely the Canucks are stuck with Hedberg, a playoff hero some years ago in Pittsburgh but that little tidbit worth only a cup of coffee at the corner store in 2004, something Vancouver players must be tossing over in their heads as they were climbing over the Rockies on the way back to Vancouver.

"I thought we played pretty well as a team," said Yelle after the game on FAN960. "It was a solid 60 minute effort from everybody."

"They played well," agreed Martin Rucinsky of the Canucks after the game. "We give them credit. They played hard. No one said it was going to be easy. Its going to be a long, hard series."

I think its going to be hard and tight right to the finish."

Vancouver's power play had literally killed Calgary to date in this series, the Canucks entering this game operating at a 37.5% clip but ending up zero for eight on the night. Calgary scored once on six attempts.

Flames directed 31 shots at Hedberg.

Next up is Game five in Vancouver on Thursday night, this series now a best of three but the Flames now forced to win one more on enemy ice.

And one more playoff game at the Saddledome on Saturday night, Flames owners and Calgary fans stomping their feet in delight at that particular thought.





1) Miikka Kiprusoff - Tumbled and tossed at times by the Canucks but held his concentration for his first career playoff shutout in a 20 save performance. 

2) Stephane Yelle - As far as Sutter is concerned, Yelle is the straw that stirs the drink, the third line centre who can control the tempo of a game. Responds with a clutch goal at a critical moment in this series, a star even if he was limited to a little over 13 minutes in ice time. 

3) Chris Clark - Challenged by the coach, had a nose for the net and followed the book on his key third period goal, going high when Hedberg made a terrible guess on his intentions.

Bursting down his off wing, Geoff Sanderson whipped a heater at Kiprusoff, the Flames goalie responding with a right pad save to preserve a 1-0 Calgary lead. Shortly thereafter, the ceiling caved in on the Canucks.

Instead of giving it to a specific player, lets delegate the Hit Of The Game to a fixed point on the ice, just inside the Calgary line where Robyn Regehr, Andrew Ference and Regehr a second time wiped out Matt Cooke, Daniel Sedin and Sedin again with thundering hits, all within a few minutes of each other midway through the first period. It was a series of hits that would set the tone for the game.

Mike Commodore drew in ahead of Toni Lydman, out with an unspecified injury. . . . . . Chris Simon, with two goals in the first three games of the series, missed game four with a "lower body injury." . . . . Vancouver's defence has two goals and seven assists in this series. Calgary's defence entered the game with the three lone assists from Jordan Leopold. . . . . . "I think the two teams are pretty evenly matched," said Mike Keane on FAN960. . . . . . Canucks were 56% in the faceoff circle, led by Trevor Linden at 69%. Yelle was 63% for Calgary. . . . . . Leopold and Regehr played exactly 24:27 on the night, leading the Flames. . . . . Ed Jovanovski led the Canucks at 24:44 in ice time. . . . . Oleg Saprykin led all players with six shots while Markus Naslund had four shots for the Canucks. . . . . . Honourable mention for hit of the game came from another member of The Shame Brigade, Denis Gauthier, the goat of game three, standing up Matt Cooke at the Calgary line with a thundering bludgeon in the third period.

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

Regehr Leopold 
Gauthier Warrener 
Ference Commodore

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