DENVER – Miikka Kiprusoff’s big night put the Calgary Flames back in the thick of the playoff race.
Kiprusoff stopped 34 shots, Alex Tanguay had a goal and an assist, and the Flames boosted their post-season chances with a 2-1 win over the Colorado Avalanche on Sunday night.
“Right now we’re going to need the gods on our side to make the playoffs,” Tanguay said. “We’re hanging onto our slim chances. If we go out and lose a game we’re out.”
Olli Jokinen also scored, and the Flames (40-29-11) moved to within one point of eighth-place Chicago and two points of Anaheim, which both lost Sunday night. The Blackhawks have played two fewer games than Calgary and one fewer than the Ducks.
“We’re within reach again,” Flames coach Brent Sutter said. “I know the games in hand are still there, but you can’t worry about that. We tightened the gap. We’re right there again, and let’s see what happens.”
Peter Budaj made 34 saves, and Milan Hejduk scored for Colorado (29-41-8), which has won only four times in 29 games.
The Avalanche’s tough season took another hit when it was announced before the game that second-leading scorer Paul Stastny will miss the rest of the season because of a stress fracture in his right leg.
Stastny might not have made a difference against Kiprusoff, who came within five minutes of his seventh shutout of the season and 41st of his NHL career. He made several brilliant saves and allowed his team to build a two-goal cushion.
“A goalie is like a pitcher in baseball. If he plays good he’s the difference,” Tanguay said. “Our goalie was the difference. There was no other explanation.”
The game was scoreless after one period, but Calgary grabbed the lead 10:23 into the second on Jokinen’s 17th goal. After killing off two power plays, the Flames dumped the puck deep into the Avalanche end. A clearing attempt by Colorado bounced in front of the net to Jokinen, who chipped the puck past Budaj.
Colorado kept the pressure on Calgary but Kiprusoff came up with big saves. His best stop came 90 seconds after Jokinen’s goal when he made a sprawling pad save on David Jones and then smothered the rebound.
“He made some huge saves for them and those are the ones we need to bury,” Colorado defenceman John-Michael Liles said. “He played well and we were playing catch-up.”
The Avalanche outshot the Flames 18-12 in the second and were down 1-0.
“I wasn’t doing handstands over the way we played the second period,” Sutter said. “We regrouped in between periods and tightened up in the third.”
Calgary’s more disciplined approach paid off when Tanguay made it 2-0 with his 21st of the season with 11:47 left.
The Avalanche finally got on the board when Hejduk buried a rebound with five minutes left for his 21st goal.
Colorado pulled Budaj for an extra attacker with 1:14 left but couldn’t score the tying goal.
Kiprusoff was disappointed he didn’t get the shutout but was happy to get the win.
“Of course. That’s what a goalie tries to do when he plays,” said Kiprusoff, who was 5-0 with a 1.64 goals-against average against Colorado this season. “It’s not a big deal. It’s two points, that’s what counts.”
Both teams had great chances in the first period. Colorado’s Ryan O’Reilly missed an open net when Flames defenceman Robyn Regehr deflected his shot. Jay McClement hit a post, and Jones was stopped by Kiprusoff when he came in alone.
NOTES: Hejduk’s scored his 755th career point to tie Peter Forsberg for fourth on the franchise scoring list. … The Avalanche were called for their only penalty with 14:51 of the second period. … Calgary is 24-1-3 when leading after two periods. … Entering Sunday’s game, Colorado had lost 425 man games to injury, the most in the organization’s history and second in the NHL.