LOS ANGELES, Calif. – The Calgary Flames and Los Angeles Kings have been playing low-scoring games for the majority of the season. And with the goaltenders they have, it’s easy to see why.
Miikka Kiprusoff made 31 saves and stopped two of the three shots he faced in a shootout, leading the Flames to a 2-1 victory over the Kings on Thursday night. Calgary is 7-17-3 when scoring fewer than three goals, and all of the wins have come with Kiprusoff in net.
Jarome Iginla scored the tying goal on a power play in the second period, and Olli Jokinen and Michael Cammalleri connected on Calgary’s first two shots in the tiebreaker to help end a six-game road losing streak.
“It was a gritty game,” Iginla said. “They played well defensively, especially after the first period. We only had a few shots, but we just stayed with it and didn’t get flustered.”
Jonathan Quick made 24 saves and Dustin Brown scored in the first period for the Kings, who are 8-1-6 since Darryl Sutter replaced Terry Murray as coach. They have allowed two goals or fewer in 30 of their 48 games (19-4-7).
Los Angeles has allowed an average of 1.38 goals in regulation over its last 16 games since losing 8-2 at Detroit on Dec. 17. Quick, who leads the NHL with six shutouts, has a 1.44 goals-against average and a .948 save percentage in his last 14 starts.
“It’s a grind, especially at this time of the year,” Brown said. “Everyone is trying to go out and get points. When it goes to a shootout, I don’t know what our shootout record is, but it’s just a roll of the dice really, when it comes to that.”
Calgary’s victory was Brent Sutter’s 200th as an NHL head coach. The only other time he and his brother were behind opposing benches was last Saturday, when the Kings beat the Flames 4-1 at Calgary. Darryl coached the Flames in 2003-04, when they were beaten in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals by Tampa Bay.
“It’s two pretty even teams, and you’ve got two of the top, five or six goaltenders in the league out there tonight,” Darryl Sutter said. “I thought it was a hard-fought game. I thought we had a real good first period, which is something that we have been working on.”
The Kings opened the scoring at 3:28 of the first period with Brown’s 13th goal. Justin Williams got a long lead pass from Willie Mitchell in the neutral zone and carried the puck into the Flames’ end before fanning on a wrist shot. But it grazed Jokinen’s stick and Brown swept it past Kiprusoff.
“We had a lot of grade-A scoring chances, but Kipper made some saves,” Brown said. “I don’t know if we got enough bodies around the net, but we had some really good quality chances that he made some big saves on. I had an empty net in overtime and (Dustin) Penner had a rebound empty net, and somehow the puck stayed out. So we go to a shootout, and it is what it is with the shootout. You win some, you lose some.”
Calgary had a 5-on-3 advantage for the first 38 seconds of the second period after staggered penalties to Colin Fraser and Jarret Stoll, who was sent off for hooking Mikael Backlund just 3 seconds before intermission. The Kings not only withstood that penalty-kill, but Kiprusoff was forced to stop Brown on a short-handed breakaway with 45 seconds left on the power play.
The Flames tied it the next time they had the man-advantage, after the Kings were penalized for having too many men on the ice. Mitchell broke his stick in the Kings’ zone and teammate Trevor Lewis handed him his to defend the low slot. But when Jokinen made a cross-ice pass to Iginla, all Lewis could do was make a diving swipe at the puck. He missed it, and Iginla beat Quick to the stick side with a slap shot from the middle of the left circle at 9:15 of the second for his 18th goal.
“The effort was there,” Brent Sutter said. “We played hard. They’re going to get opportunities, but (Kiprusoff) stood tall. We were able to find and a way, and that’s what you need to do. We did a lot of good things. It was a game where you had to get into the trenches and compete, and both teams did that here tonight.”
Notes: The Flames have scored one goal in each of their last four games, one of them in overtime to beat Anaheim 1-0. … The Kings haven’t scored more than two goals in any of their last seven home games against Calgary, and have won three of them. … Iginla’s 502nd NHL goal tied Joe Mullen for 40th place on the career list and put him within one of Peter Bondra’s total. … The Kings had only two power-play opportunities, the second one when Calgary D Mark Giordano was sent off for hooking Slava Voynov with 35 seconds left in overtime. … Kings C Anze Kopitar has 14 goals and eight penalty minutes through his first 48 games. In three of his previous four seasons, he finished with fewer penalty minutes than goals. The only players in Kings history to win the Lady Byng Trophy were Wayne Gretzky (three times), Butch Goring and Marcel Dionne. … Once this four-game homestand ends, the Kings will play 20 of their final 31 on the road. … Los Angeles had allowed just three goals in 53 short-handed situations over their previous 13 home games.