Calgary Flames beat Red Wings 3-2 but eliminated from playoff contention

CALGARY – Steve Begin can’t recall scoring a stranger pair of goals.

Begin scored twice in the third period to lead the Calgary Flames to a 3-2 win over the Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday.

“We always say when you work hard, things somehow (are) going to turn for you,” Begin said. “I guess it happened tonight not once, but twice.”

Begin took advantage of a pair of blunders by Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard to score his third and fourth goals of the season.

“The guys think I cut a deal with the goalie on the other side,” Begin said. “Two goals, two similar ones. I can’t really tell you what happened. I was just chasing the puck and it ended up on my stick. It’s always good to get those goals.”

Lee Stempniak also scored for the Flames (17-22-4), who won all three games they played against the Red Wings this season. Despite the win, the Flames were officially eliminated from playoff contention when the Columbus Blue Jackets beat the Anaheim Ducks 3-2 in overtime on Wednesday.

Gustav Nyquist and Johan Franzen scored for the Red Wings (20-16-7), who had gone 2-1-2 in their previous five games. Detroit fell to ninth spot in the NHL’s Western Conference by virtue of the Blue Jackets’ win.

Miikka Kiprusoff stopped 36-of-38 shots he faced in the Calgary net to record his first win since he making 36 saves in a 3-2 win at home to St. Louis on March 24. Joey MacDonald had started the previous three games in net for the Flames.

After being named the game’s first star, Kiprusoff was given a loud ovation by the appreciative fans in attendance at the Scotiabank Saddledome.

“Tonight it was a pretty nice feeling to play in front of them,” Kiprusoff said. “As a player, you really appreciate that. It makes your job so much easier when the crowd is behind you.”

Howard, who the Red Wings signed to a US$31.8-million, six-year contract on Tuesday, made 14 saves in a losing cause.

“It’s a tough thing to swallow, but what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” Howard said. “I’ve got to forget about this and get ready for Saturday night in Vancouver.”

Early in the third period, Howard played the puck behind his net and attempted to pass it off to defenceman Jonathan Ericsson. Begin noticed that the puck instead got tied up in Howard’s feet and he alertly poked it off the Detroit goalie’s right skate and into the net.

Later in the period, with Calgary defenceman Dennis Wideman in the penalty box for cross-checking, Howard mishandled the puck while again trying to play it behind his net.

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Begin was once again the beneficiary as he picked up the loose puck and deposited it into the empty net to give Calgary a 3-1 lead.

“I made a mistake on the third one, simple as that,” Howard said. “Last time I checked I’m human. It was a tough one tonight because it was the game winner.

“It’s on me.”

Franzen pulled the Wings to within a goal with an unlikely goal of his own at 17:18 of the third. Franzen backhanded the puck into the Calgary zone from centre ice and it took an odd bounce right through Kiprusoff’s legs.

The veteran Calgary goalie then made a great glove save with 16.6 seconds left in the game to stop a shot off the stick of Detroit defenceman Jakub Kindl and preserve the victory.

“Yeah, it felt good,” Kiprusoff said. “Especially after I made it … a little more interesting at the end there.”

Howard had to be sharp in the early going and he stood his ground to turn aside a pair of shots fired his way by Calgary forward Matt Stajan.

It took the Red Wings until just after the five-minute mark for Valteri Filppula to record Detroit’s first shot on net, which Kiprusoff easily turned aside. The Finnish goalie then stopped quality shots by Damian Brunner and Henrik Zetterberg before making a great save with his left pad to deny a scoring attempt by Joakim Andersson.

The Flames opened the scoring at 13:28 of the first when Stempniak swatted a rebound past Howard. Calgary defenceman Cory Sarich took the initial shot on goal, but the puck bounced right to Stempniak, who was driving hard to the net.

Calgary outshot Detroit 10-8 in the first period before the Red Wings turned the tables and outshot the Flames 11-2 in the second.

“We took the game over for much of the game from that point on,” said Detroit coach Mike Babcock. “Kipper was solid. We knew he was going to be good here tonight but we weren’t good enough. That’s the bottom line. We didn’t score enough.”

The Red Wings scored the lone goal of the second when Nyquist tapped a cross-crease pass from Andersson past Kiprusoff.

Notes: Stajan returned to Calgary’s lineup after missing the past four games with an upper-body injury. … Flames’ rookie Sven Baertschi drew an assist on Stempniak’s goal to give him two goals and two assists in his past three games. … The Flames also beat the Red Wings 4-1 in Detroit on Feb. 5 and 5-2 at home on March 13. … Franzen has scored goals in three straight games for the Red Wings.