Kiprusoff made two huge saves on Ryan Smyth in the first 20 seconds into the game Sunday, propelling the Flames to a 4-2 win over the Edmonton Oilers. Iginla, who paced Calgary’s scoring attack with a goal and two assists, commended Kiprusoff for bailing out the Flames early. “We have so much confidence in him,” Iginla said. “We haven’t been playing as tight in front of him as we should, but he makes huge, timely saves. Those get forgotten at times as the game goes on.”
Smyth advanced on Kiprusoff with a clear-cut breakaway, but the Flames goaltender made a pair of pad saves before covering up the rebound.
“It’s a nice way to start the game if you stop that,” said Kiprusoff, who finished the game with 22 saves to improve his record to 18-13-3. “The puck was bouncing a little bit and he just tried to shoot quickly and I was able to stop that.”
Daymond Langkow, who also scored once for the Flames, also praised the reigning Vezina Trophy winner for his efforts.
“That’s probably the turning point in the game right there,” Langkow said.
Smyth, who went on to score both Oiler goals, regretted missing those early chances..
“Obviously, I’d love to have that one back and capitalize on the chances like that early on in the game,” said the Edmonton captain. “Off of that, it gave them a little momentum and they capitalized on the first one and from there the rest is history.”
Dion Phaneuf and Chuck Kobasew also scored for the Flames, who have won two straight games on their current six-game homestand.
With the win, the Flames (19-14-4) kept pace with the Minnesota Wild (20-17-2), who downed the Anaheim Mighty Ducks 4-3. Both teams have 42 points to sit atop the Northwest Division, although the Flames have played two less games than the Wild.
Jarrett Stoll had two assists for the Oilers (18-18-2), who have now lost four straight games and sit tied for last in the Northwest Division at 38 points with the Colorado Avalanche.
“We’ve got to fight and battle out of this,” said Edmonton netminder Dwayne Roloson, who made 20 saves in a losing cause. “We’ve all got to stick together and do the little things that win hockey games.”
Smyth said he believes the Oilers can begin to turn their season around on Tuesday night when they return home to face the Florida Panthers.
“We’ve got to stay focused,” he said. “We believe we’re a good hockey team and once we believe that and start playing with confidence, we’ll eventually find a way through it.”
Calgary jumped out to a 1-0 lead at 5:48 of the first when Kristian Huselius spotted Iginla in the slot and feathered him a nice pass. The Calgary captain wired a one-timer past Roloson, who was screened by his own defenceman Jason Smith on the play.
Less than four minutes later, Iginla fought for the puck along the boards behind the Oilers net with Roloson and came away with it before centring a pass to Langkow who deposited it into an empty net to put the Flames up 2-0.
“He won the battle behind the net there and I had an open net,” Langkow said.
Just 49 seconds into the second period, Phaneuf wristed a point shot past Roloson, who was screened by Langkow, during a Calgary power play.
The Oilers then responded on a man advantage of their own when Smyth tipped a point shot by Daniel Tjarnqvist into the top corner past Kiprusoff.
The Flames regained their three-goal lead at 3:53 of the middle frame when Alex Tanguay spotted a streaking Kobasew and hit him with a perfect pass in front of the Edmonton net. Kobasew swatted it past Roloson to record his first goal in 13 games.
“He sees the ice so well,” Kobasew said of Tanguay. “As soon as I saw him go into the corner looking over his shoulder, I knew to go back post and he put it though some traffic to make it.”
In the third, Smyth redirected a pass from Stoll past Kiprusoff during a two-man advantage for the Oilers to narrow the deficit to two goals.
That’s as close as they would get though as the Flames held on for the victory in front of a sell-out crowd of 19,289 fans at the Pengrowth Saddledome.
Notes: Calgary defenceman Roman Hamrlik returned to the lineup after missing seven games with a groin injury. During that span the Flames recorded a 3-3-1 record. … Heading into the game, the Oilers were ranked first in road penalty killing with a 93.7 per cent efficiency rate having allowed just six power-play goals in 95 short-handed situations. … This is the third time the Flames and Oilers have met on New Year’s Eve in Calgary. The teams tied 2-2 on Dec. 31, 2001, while the Flames skated to a 6-5 victory one year ago at the Saddledome.