CALGARY – The old Miikka Kiprusoff is back, although this one is a little bit more rested.
Craig Conroy scored in the third period and Kiprusoff made 39 saves as the Calgary Flames climbed back into a tie for first place in the NHL’s Northwest Division with a 1-0 victory Tuesday night over the Columbus Blue Jackets.
It was the second shutout of the season for Kiprusoff, who improves to 33-20-9. The two blankings have come in his last five games after he failed to pick up a shutout in his first 58 starts of the season.
“He was our best player tonight,” said Calgary coach Mike Keenan, “everybody in the building knows that. Certainly he made the difference for us. He kept us in the game when they were really pushing early and then he was just stellar throughout the game from start to finish.”
On the Flames two-game road trip, Keenan replaced Kiprusoff with Curtis Joseph to start of the second period of Friday night’s 3-1 loss to Anaheim, after Kiprusoff yielded two goals on 11 shots. Joseph remained in goal for the Flames 3-1 win in Phoenix on Saturday.
Getting Kiprusoff more rest down the stretch was the main reason the Flames brought in Joseph.
“I discussed that with Miikka…even after the Anaheim game that we have to find a little bit more of a balance, and that’s what we’re going to try to work for and work at,” Keenan said.
Conroy acknowledged that Kiprusoff did look more rested, as he got peppered for 18 shots in the first period.
“He’s getting a break every now and then and when he’s fresh, he looks very good,” said Conroy.
Kiprusoff says that an advantage to getting a game off is the opportunity to be busier in practice.
“If you get a night off, you’re able to have a couple real hard practices,” said Kiprusoff, who recorded career shutout No. 26. “When you play a lot, you have to be smarter and get some rest,”
Combined with Minnesota’s 4-2 loss at home to Chicago, Calgary (35-23-9) finds themselves level with the Wild atop the Northwest Division with 79 points each. Each team has 15 games remaining.
Columbus (30-28-10) remains in 11th in the West, four points back of a playoff spot.
“It was one of those games that you fear because the longer that it goes, the more experienced team like Calgary seems to find a way to score a goal, and sure enough, that’s the way it ended up,” said veteran Columbus centre Mike Peca.
Conroy got the game’s only goal at 5:49 of the third.
Eric Nystrom’s shoot-in attempt glanced off the stick of Blue Jackets defenceman Aaron Rome and was scooped up by Conroy as he charged into the Columbus end. The veteran Flames centre cut to the net and backhanded in his 10th of the season.
The Blue Jackets had numerous chances with the extra man to take the lead over the first two periods but failed to get that critical goal finishing up 0-for-6. Columbus has gone eight games without a power-play goal, going 0-for-27 over that span.
Columbus’ best chance was a 1:19 two-man advantage in the second period. However, they squandered it getting just one shot on goal.
“Our power play was not good enough tonight, especially on the 5-on-3,” said Rick Nash. “We didn’t even get one really great scoring chance and that’s unacceptable.”
Peca agreed that sequence was a key point in the game, suggesting the Blue Jackets weren’t quick enough moving the puck during that chance.
“For a guy like me that kills a lot of 5-on-3s, that makes it easy for the penalty killers,” Peca said. “You have to move the puck and you have to move it quick and we didn’t seem to be moving it quick enough to open up shooting lanes or passing lanes.”
“Making his ninth straight start in goal for Columbus, Leclaire finished up with 18 saves to drop to 23-15-5.”
Notes: Calgary D Cory Sarich, whose consecutive games streak came to an end on Saturday at 453 games, was a healthy scratch for the second game in a row. …calgary played the second game in a stretch of eight straight games against teams that – as of Tuesday night – were not in a playoff position. …The scoring slumps for Huselius and c Matthew Lombardi continue. Lombardi has no goals in 18 games and one in his last 29 while Huselius has no goals in 19… Nash had his five-game points streak snapped. Nash remains one point away from matching his career high for points (57), which was set last year in his sophomore season.