CALGARY – The Vancouver Canucks overcame a spectacular goaltending performance from Miikka Kiprusoff to pick up an important two points against a bitter division rival Tuesday night.
Ryan Kesler scored twice, Kevin Bieksa tied the game in the final minute and Pavol Demitra scored the shootout winner as the Canucks kicked off a four-game road trip with a thrilling 4-3 victory over the Calgary Flames.
Despite being thwarted time and again by Kiprusoff, Vancouver kept pressing. With goalie Roberto Luongo pulled for an extra attacker the Canucks finally drew even on Bieksa’s point shot through a crowd with 51 seconds remaining.
“I had three or four shots in a row but they kept being blocked or I missed the net,”Bieksa said.
“But the puck kept coming back to me and I found a way to squeak one in there.”
After overtime solved nothing, Demitra scored the shootout’s only goal, snapping a shot from close in past through a frozen Kiprusoff’s pads.
After misses by Michael Cammalleri and Jarome Iginla, former Canuck Todd Bertuzzi nearly tied the shootout, but with Luongo completely fooled, his nifty spin-a-round backhander rang off the post. Bertuzzi broke his stick on the ice in frustration.
Vancouver (28-21-8) improves to 6-1-0 in its last seven and moves to within 10 points of the Northwest Division-leading Flames.
Jarome Iginla, Daymond Langkow and Rene Bourque scored for Calgary (33-18-6). The Flames have picked up points in five straight (3-0-2).
Iginla also added an assist giving him 823 career points (395 goals, 428 assists), moving him past Al MacInnis (822) into second place on the Flames all-time scoring list. Theoren Fleury (830) sits in top spot.
Bourque’s 20th goal of the season at 6:52 of the third gave Calgary a 3-2 lead.
Bieksa got caught pinching at the Flames blue-line, enabling Bourque and Iginla to break up the ice on a 2-on-1. Iginla moved the puck forward to Bourque darting down the left wing and wired a shot that just squeezed in under Luongo’s arm.
“I picked them up in the first 40 minutes and then they picked me up at the end,” said Luongo, who finished with 38 saves. “We didn’t play our best hockey the first two periods and then with us still tied I give up that goal. But that’s what we do as a team, we try to bail each other out and tonight, you saw both sides of that.”
Of the numerous sensational saves Kiprusoff made, his best came on a Canucks power-play with less than 10 minutes to go.
With Vancouver pressing for the tying goal and seemingly out of position on a Kyle Wellwood shot, Kiprusoff dove all the way across the net and with the paddle of his stick knocked the puck out of the air, denying the Canucks a sure goal.
The sell-out crowd of 19,289 immediately rose to their feet and continued to chant “Kipper, Kipper” as the Jumbotron showed the replay over and over.
Kiprusoff finished up with 40 stops.
“I thought I had an empty net but somehow he was able to reach back and stop it right on the goal line. That’s definitely the best save I’ve ever had to deal with,” said Wellwood.
“I’ve seen that kind of thing in road hockey but to do it in a game like he did there was pretty impressive.”
While players on both teams talked in awe about that play after the game, Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault had a different take.
“Kyle got what he deserves, I mean he is not bearing down and had an open net. He’s shooting the puck two miles an hour. You have to bear down, you have to put your full weight into it and you have to shoot it,” said Vigneault. “Obviously it looked like the goalie made a big save, but the player didn’t have a great attempt.”
All the scoring in the second period came in the final three minutes.
Kesler made it 2-1 at 17:05 on his second goal of the night. The lead lasted just over a minute before Langkow tied it by chipping the puck past Luongo.
Calgary took a 1-0 lead when Bourque and Craig Conroy combined to set up Iginla’s 21st goal of the season.
For the slumping Flames captain, it was his first goal in eight games.
“I felt better this game,” said Iginla. “I need to just keep building on this and start relaxing. Tonight, personally, it felt like a step in the right direction to get going again,” said Iginla.
Notes: Wellwood’s high-sticking penalty in the first period ended a string of 159 games without a penalty for the Vancouver forward. It had been three seasons since Wellwood was last in the penalty box, a minor penalty he took on Apr. 11, 2006 versus Florida… Calgary rookie RW Brandon Prust (broken jaw) has been declared healthy after missing 30 games but he did get back in the line-up as the Flames went with the identical line-up they’ve used in the past 12 games… Vancouver improves to 9-4-3 versus the Northwest Division.