MONTREAL – What looked like a minor trade to fill in for an injured goaltender eight years ago turned into a perfect marriage for Miikka Kiprusoff and the Calgary Flames.
The soft-spoken Kiprusoff became the team’s all-time leader in wins by a goalie with 263—one more than Mike Vernon—as he turned aside 35 shots on Thursday night to lead the Flames to a 4-1 victory over the Montreal Canadiens.
”It’s huge for me,” said Kiprusoff, who turns 35 on Oct. 26. ”I know Mike pretty well.
”He was the starting goalie in San Jose when I first came over to North America. He’s a good guy.”
Canadiens-killer Rene Bourque scored twice while Niklas Hagman and David Moss also tallied for Calgary (1-2-0), which had been outscored 10-5 in their opening two losses of the NHL regular season.
Andrei Kostitsyn replied for Montreal (1-2-0), which outshot the Flames 36-21 and allowed only one shot on goal in the third period but could not solve Kiprusoff.
The Flames acquired the Finnish netminder on Nov. 16, 2003 in exchange for a second round draft pick. He had been relegated to third string behind starter Evgeni Nabokov in San Jose.
The Flames needed a goalie to replace the injured Roman Turek. They got much more than a fill-in, however, as Kiprusoff almost immediately blossomed into one of the NHL’s best.
He helped Calgary reach the Stanley Cup final in his first season, losing in Game 7 to Tampa Bay, and has since become a workhorse, starting more than 70 games per season.
He said he still sometimes wonders about the move to Calgary that changed his life and his career.
”Sometimes I do, actually,” he said. ”I was always believing that everything happens for a reason.
”I had some tough times in San Jose, but they wanted me here and they gave me a chance. I knew (San Jose) were going to move me. I was pretty happy when it happened.
”I’ve been here a long time and played a lot of games. It’s about winning also. We really needed this game. Being 0-2 wasn’t the start we wanted. But we played better as a team, so it’s a nice win.”
It also prevented Montreal goalie Carey Price from picking up his 100th career win.
Montreal has lost five of its last six games against the Flames, who they have not beaten in regulation time since Dec. 9, 2008. It was their first meeting since the Flames shut out Montreal 4-0 in the Heritage Classic outdoor game in Calgary last winter.
Bourque had two goals in that game as well, and now has six goals and nine points in nine career games against the Canadiens.
”It would be nice to play them more often,” said the native of Lac La Biche, Alta. ”I love coming here. I love playing in this building. You can feel the energy in here. It’s like the shine of hockey.”
It wasn’t a fun place for the Canadiens, who were booed by the 21,273 in the Bell Centre seats in their home opener.
Penalties and sloppy defensive play were mostly to blame for the loss, and coach Jacques Martin changed his three defence pairings after falling behind 3-1 in the first period.
”We had a lot of inexperience on defence, but I think the guiltiest were not the inexperienced guys,” said Martin, who has first-year rearguards Rafael Diaz and Alexei Emelin in the lineup.
”We started well but then they got three power plays and scored two goals and that was the difference.”
The Canadiens stormed out after their pre-game player introductions and got the opening goal at 1:47 when Cory Sarich broke his stick taking a shot at the Montreal blue-line to set up a 2-on-1 the other way. Kostitsyn slipped the puck in an open side after Max Pacioretty banked a shot off the end boards.
The Flames scored twice as Montreal took three straight minor penalties, two by captain Brian Gionta. Bourque picked the top corner from the right circle at 7:15 and Hagman jumped on a deflection off Andreas Engqvist’s skate in the slot to beat Price at 11:38. Bourque picked up his 100th point as a Flame on the play.
A P.K. Subban giveaway allowed Alex Tanguay to send Moss in alone for an even-strength goal and a 3-1 lead at 14:54, to booing from the seats.
Sustained pressure in the Montreal zoneled to Bourque’s second of the night 13:22 into the second as Price made two saves but couldn’t stop the last rebound to Moss from the edge of the crease.
On Saturday night, the Flames move on to face the Maple Leafs in Toronto while Montreal stays home to meet Colorado.
Calgary is 3 for 10 on the power play this season and Montreal is 1 for 13
Notes: Montreal forward Ryan White, who suffered a sports hernia in camp, had surgery and will be out indefinitely. . . Centre Lars Eller returned from shoulder surgery, but Michael Cammalleri (leg), Jaroslav Spacek (upper body) and Chris Campoli (lower body) are out. . . Brendan Morrison (knee), Raitis Ivanans (head), Brett Carson (back) and Mikael Backlund (finger) are out for Calgary.