Miikka Kiprusoff turned aside all three Minnesota shooters he faced, including a huge stop off Pierre-Marc Bouchard to clinch it, as the Flames beat the Wild 2-1 on Wednesday. Jarome Iginla scored the only goal in the shootout for Calgary. The Flames first shootout victory of the season moves them one point ahead of Minnesota and into a tie with Vancouver for first place in the tight Northwest Division.
After Alex Tanguay and Tony Amonte were stopped by Josh Harding and Pavol Demitra and Mikko Koivu were denied by Kiprusoff, Iginla put the Flames in control with just his second shootout goal in 11 career attempts.
“I just went in slowly and tried to shoot it as hard as I could at that point to the glove side,” Iginla said. “Fortunately I was due to see one go in. It’s been a while and a tough streak.”
Harding said he was not sure what to expect from the Flames captain and leading scorer.
“He had me thinking. I didn’t know what he was going to do,” said Harding. “He’s probably one of the most talented guys in the league. For him to score in the shootout softens the blow a little bit.”
Kiprusoff then clinched it by acrobatically jabbing out his left pad to deny Bouchard after the Minnesota forward darted in then did a spin move.
“I remember he did it earlier,” Kiprusoff said. “He almost had me but I just tried to kick out my pad.”
Bouchard gave full credit to the Flames goaltender.
“When I turned around, he brought his pad back pretty quick. It was a great save.”
As futile as Iginla had been in shootouts, Kiprusoff had fared equally poorly with a 1-11 career record entering the night. In an even more staggering statistic, Kiprusoff had stopped just two of nine shooters this season and just 13 of 32 shooters since its inception last season.
“It’s been some tough times, been talked about a lot, but I think I’m going the right direction with it,” said Kiprusoff.
Robyn Regehr scored for Calgary (34-21-9). The Flames continue to sport the NHL’s best home record at 27-6-1 including a 13-1-1 mark over their last 15 games at the Pengrowth Saddledome.
Pavol Demitra scored the lone goal for Minnesota (35-23-6), which began a key three-game road trip against Northwest Division opponents. The Wild play in Edmonton on Thursday night.
“We played a good hockey team tonight,” said Minnesota forward Brian Rolston. “It was a playoff-style hockey game and it’s something we’ll need to get used to in the last 18 games that we have. They’re going to be a lot of one-goal games.”
Trailing 1-0 late in the game, Regehr sent the sell-out crowd of 19,289 to their feet, tying the game at 15:29 of the third period on his second goal of the season.
Kristian Huselius cut across the Wild blue-line then slipped the puck back to Regehr, who from the blasted a slapshot into the top corner past Harding.
The Wild opened the scoring on a two-man advantage early in the third period. Demitra fired a puck towards Marian Gaborik in front of the Calgary net, but the puck deflected off Flames defenceman Dion Phaneuf and past Kiprusoff.
Niklas Backstrom made his 12th start in a row with Manny Fernandez still sidelined with a sprained knee, but the first-year Swede lasted just 20 minutes. Backstrom was replaced by Harding to start the second period leaving with a lower body injury.
“Hopefully Nik and Manny aren’t out that long, but when they’re hurt, that’s the backup goalie’s job just to try and step in there,” said Harding.
Notes: Carolina (0-4) is now the lone team without a shootout victory this season . . . Calgary D Brad Stuart had an assist for his first point in nine games since coming over from Boston. Since joining the Flames, Stuart is a plus-5 to improve his total for the season to minus-17. . . Neither team’s trade deadline acquisition played. D David Hale, acquired by the Flames from New Jersey, was not scheduled to arrive in Calgary until late Wednesday night. Former New York Ranger RW Dominic Moore was a scratch for the Wild . . . Calgary and Minnesota meet three more times over their final 18 games including consecutive games in Minnesota on March 27 and 29 . . . Since losing 11 in a row on the road, the Wild have gone 9-3-1 away from the Xcel Energy Center.