CALGARY – The Calgary Flames continued their recent mastery of their provincial rival.
Jarome Iginla scored twice and Miikka Kiprusoff made 21 saves Saturday as the red-hot Flames blanked the Oilers 3-0—their eighth straight win against Edmonton and 15th in the last 16 games.
Calgary is playing its best hockey of the season. A 6-1-1 run has them within one point of the Oilers in the Western Conference standings and just two points back of a playoff spot.
“Our whole game as a group is getting better,” said Iginla, who leads the team with 11 goals. “Our confidence is growing, we’re moving the puck better, we’ve got more puck possession, and we’re skating better. And our goaltending’s been outstanding all season.”
All three of the Flames wins against Edmonton this season have come with the Oilers on the second of back-to-back games, a situation Oilers coach Tom Renney expressed his frustrations about after the game.
“I think the scheduling is B.S. to be honest with you,” Renney said. “I’d like that opportunity, I’d like to be able to play Calgary three times on the back end of a back-to-back and talk about intensity and jump and that kind of stuff.”
The Flames have also been unbeatable against the Oilers at home, with 10 consecutive wins at the Scotiabank Saddledome.
“I don’t think there’s a mental block or anything like that,” Renney said. “I think we’re closer to beating them than we believe we are.”
Tom Kostopoulos’ rare power-play goal was the game winner for Calgary (14-13-2), which now begins a difficult stretch with 11 of its next 13 games on the road.
Edmonton (14-13-3), winners of just two of its last eight, are off for the next four days before starting a short two-game road trip in Phoenix on Thursday.
The game was scoreless for the first half of the game until the Flames put out their fourth line for the final seconds of a power play and a face-off deep in the Edmonton end.
Matt Stajan cleanly beat Anton Lander on the draw, pulling the puck back to Derek Smith, whose shot was stopped before Kostopoulos put in the rebound.
“We knew they only had four men for five seconds so we wanted to set up a quick shot,” Kostopoulos said. “The clean win off the face-off was huge by Stajan and Smitty just having the presence of mind to put it at the net quick so maybe we could get a two-on-one in front and the puck was just lying there.”
The goal came with Edmonton’s Sam Gagner in the penalty box for a slash on Kostopoulos that prematurely ended an Oilers four-minute power play.
Calgary went in front 2-0 with 16 seconds left in the second.
With the teams skating four-on-four and Calgary on the attack, Iginla worked himself free in the high slot, took a pass from Brendan Morrison and sizzled a one-timer into the top corner.
Kiprusoff earned his second shutout of the season and 42nd of his career.
The most dangerous chance Kiprusoff faced was the result of his own misplay. Late in the first period, Kiprusoff mishandled a harmless looking dump-in and ended up kicking the puck right onto the stick of Ryan Jones in front of the net. Jones let a quick shot go but Kiprusoff threw out his left arm and stabbed the 20-footer with his glove.
“I don’t know what I was doing, I didn’t read it right,” Kiprusoff said. “I just tried to kick it and tape-to-tape, so pretty lucky save there. It was a good feeling I was able to stop that because that was my mistake.”
Part of the Flames’ success was their ability to shut down the Oilers high-flying top line of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle and Gagner—playing left wing in place of injured Taylor Hall.
Nugent-Hopkins and Eberle entered the night with eight points each during six-game points streaks. Gagner had six points in his last four games.
“We’re disappointed, we took a lot of penalties,” said veteran Oilers defenceman Tom Gilbert. “It’s frustrating especially since it’s a divisional team. They’re a high pressure team and we weren’t moving the puck as well as we have been.”
The game was played before a sell-out crowd of 19,289. There were many Oilers jerseys visible, and the vocal bunch starting chants of “Here we go Oilers” throughout the early part of the game.
Notes: Calgary LW Alex Tanguay (flu) did not play. Recalled from Abbotsford (AHL) to take his place was Flames 2008 first round pick Greg Nemisz. … Edmonton D Andy Sutton served the second game of an eight-game suspension, which was handed down by the NHL prior to the game for his hit Wednesday night on Carolina’s Alex Ponikarovsky.…Of Nugent-Hopkins’ 32 points, only eight (five goals, three assists) have come in the Oilers 14 road games.…It is the second time the Oilers have been shut out this season, having all been blanked in Detroit on Nov. 11.…Hall (shoulder) missed his seventh game. He is practising with the team though and expected back soon.