Kiprusoff Stones The Canucks 

Flames Take Strangle Hold On Series

April 15th, 2004

When the Calgary Flames made the playoffs with a win over the Phoenix Coyotes on March 31st a seven year monkey was knocked off their collective shoulder.

Ten days later the Flames won their first playoff game in nine years, dislodging an even bigger primate from their backs.

Four night later the club knocked another monkey to it's demise when they staged their first home win in the same amount of time.

Tonight the Flames moved a step closer to tossing King Kong aside when they disposed of the Vancouver Canucks by a 2-1 score to take a 3-2 lead in the Western Conference Quarter-final.

It's an all too common fact, brazened into the damaged psyche of every hockey fan that walks the streets in Alberta's Stampede City - the Flames haven't won a playoff series since they claimed the Stanley Cup in 1989.

That's almost 15 years.

That's roughly 5,490 days.

That's a lot of tear in the beer and heartbreak for a city that thought the best days were still ahead when the Flames sipped from Lord Stanley's holy grail for the first time.

On Saturday night the Flames have a chance to erase a lot of bad memories - but don't for a minute think it will be easy.

Nothing in this series is.

Typically the Flames were forced to fight tooth and nail in Vancouver tonight as the hosts did everything but lay down and die before a rabid crowd looking for a bounce back game.

The Flames handily won game four in Calgary, sending onlookers on the left coast into doubting their clubs heart and ability to get up for the big game.

The first period was a scoreless affair despite six powerplays - four against the Flames - and a Chris Clark short handed break away.

The Flames opened the scoring in the second period when surprise starter Alex Auld over committed on a wide shot by Mike Commodore on a Calgary powerplay allowing the shielded Craig Conroy to direct a rebound into a wide open net.

The Flames continued to press through the majority of the second but were foiled by defensive work by the Canucks and some solid saves by Auld.

Late in the period, with the Canucks on a powerplay of their own, the home side received a fortuitous goal when a Mattias Ohlund point shot hit Henrik Sedin in the upper chest and bounced past Miikka Kiprusoff.

The goal ended a 115 minute shut out streak for the goaltender that many a Vancouver pundit was ready to dismiss coming into the series.

It was the last time they'd beat him on the night.

The Flames scored an intriguing goal early in the third when an Andrew Ference point shot was smacked down by Jarome Iginla on the deflection. The puck skipped by Auld but the play was thrown under review because the net clearly bounced off its pegs. The ruling states that if the net lands back on the pegs the goal stands which was the final say from the video booth, putting the Flames up 2-1.

From there the Flames were lucky as they sat firmly on their lead and relied on the goaltending of Kiprusoff to eke out the win.

Though a nail biting experience for onlookers, the truth of the matter was that the Canucks really didn't have many blue chip chances despite out shooting Calgary 12-2 in the third period.

The one goal against moves Kiprusoff's goals against average in the series down to 1.81 despite giving up five goals in the opening game. His average has been 1.01 since that night, quelling a lot of doubt about his ability to continue his hot hand into the playoffs.

Calgary's other bright light, Jarome Iginla, managed his third goal of the series in just five games, though the second of three was into an empty net.

The Canuck big guns were held off the scoresheet. Vancouver's run of five on five ineffectiveness was continued with the club still only solving Kiprusoff once without a soul in the penalty box or an extra attacker altering the play.

The teams will reacquaint themselves on Saturday night at the Pengrowth Saddledome in what just may be the loudest home contest of the series.

The Flames will be looking for 19,289 helpful hands in moving that huge darn monkey off their backs and creating some modern history for a city full of new hockey fans.





1) Miikka Kiprusoff - Stopped 31 of 32 Vancouver shots to post a big win and give his club a chance to claim their first playoff series in 15 years. 

2) Jarome Iginla - Scored the game winner and landed some thunderous hits in the game to lead his team to victory. 

3) Henrik Sedin - Both Sedins competed tonight, something they haven't done much in this series. Henrik scored an ugly goal but he'll take it.

Miikka Kiprusoff kept the game scoreless in the first period when he stuck out his right pad and stoned Geoff Sanderson on a redirect from the corner.

Jarome Iginla gets the nod for destroying Brent Sopel behind the Vancouver cage in the first period. Iginla was penalized on the play but he set the tone for another night of physical play by the Flames.

That Jarkko Ruutu is one odd bird. Late in the first period he and Martin Rucinsky did their best to shove Stephane Yelle into the Vancouver bench. When a melee ensued Ruutu grabbed Chris Clark's skate to either wrench the player's knee or help Clark into the same Canuck resting spot. Strange move. ... The Flames once again lost the battle of the dot, winning only 46% of the faceoffs on the night. No Calgary center finished north of .500 while Trevor Linden, Brendan Morrison and Henrik Sedin all had good nights. ... Had to laugh at the robust young lady in blue behind the Canucks bench that was anything but shy during the game. When the Canucks called a time out with less than a minute to play she did everything she could to enhance the view of the CBC audience. ... Chris Clark could have been the goat in this one with two silly slashing penalties in the first two periods. The second infraction cost Kiprusoff the shut out but the final result will likely save the winger from coach Sutter's wrath. ... The key to the game for Calgary was their start as the Flames carried the play for the first few minutes and didn't let the Canucks do a whole lot during the first frame. ... That was one odd penalty call to Martin Gelinas in the second period when the winger was called for interference when he ran into a Canuck at the Vancouver blueline. Why would an attacking player ever want to interfere with a player away from the puck when you could have an advantage? ... The quartet of Robyn Regehr, Jordan Leopold, Denis Gauthier and Rhett Warrener logged between 23 and 25 minutes on the night. Jarome Iginla had over 21 minutes to lead the forwards. Ed Jovanovski led all skaters with 26:19 of ice. ... For those paying attention, this writer broke his goose egg tonight as I wrote up both losses coming into this game while Rick Charlton wrote up both wins. 

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

Regehr Leopold 
Gauthier Warrener 
Ference Commodore

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