CALGARY – The long wait is finally over for Miikka Kiprusoff.
Making his 59th start, the Calgary Flames goaltender finally recorded his first shutout of the season Friday night, turning aside 38 shots as the Flames beat the Detroit Red Wings 1-0.
“It feels good,” said the quiet-spoken Finn. “We played a pretty strong game, our forwards did great with the backchecking, it was a good team game.”
Kiprusoff was at his best in the third period as Detroit carried the majority of the play, outshooting the Flames 13-2, but could not connect for the tying goal.
“We definitely did steal one,” said Alex Tanguay, who authored the game’s only goal. “Kipper bailed us out many times. Even though they don’t have (Nicklas) Lidstrom and (Brian) Rafalski, they are still a very dangerous team. It seems like the latter part of the second period and in the third, we kind of lacked energy.”
Kiprusoff’s 25th career shutout comes 64 starts after his last one, a 1-0 win over Minnesota on March 27, 2007. Prior to that stretch, shutouts were seemingly routine as Kiprusoff chalked up 21 of them in his first 181 games with the Flames.
It’s Calgary’s (32-22-8) third straight win and moves them to within one point of Northwest Division-leading Minnesota, setting up a battle for first place Sunday afternoon when the Flames take on the Wild at the Xcel Energy Center. The Flames also pull into a tie with idle San Jose and Nashville for fifth in the Western Conference.
“It was a big game for our team. We’ve been playing pretty well the last few games and we have to keep going that way,” said Kiprusoff.
All Flames players wore No. 18 on their helmets in memory of 2007 fifth-round draft pick Mickey Renaud. The captain of the Ontario Hockey League’s Windsor Spitfires passed away suddenly on Monday.
Detroit (42-16-5) continued its struggles, having won just one of its last eight (1-6-1). Despite the recent slide, Detroit remains the runaway leader in the West with an eight-point cushion over Dallas. The Red Wings continue their five-game road trip Saturday night in Vancouver.
Lidstrom, who leads the NHL in plus-minus (plus-39) and points by a defenceman (57), missed his first game with a sprained knee suffered in Monday’s 4-0 win over Colorado.
With Rafalski (groin) and Niklas Kronwall (shoulder) also missing from the blue-line, the Red Wings then lost veteran defenceman Chris Chelios halfway through the first period with a bruised right leg after he got hit in the back of the leg by a slap shot from Adrian Aucoin.
“We played hard and tried hard, but the bottom line is you have to score,” said Detroit head coach Mike Babcock. “When you look at our group that we had on the back end, you can feel good about it. But the bottom line is we’re in the winning business here and that’s what we thought we were going to do tonight. We thought we were capable of winning with the team we had, but we came up a little short.”
In that final 20 minutes, Kiprusoff got bailed out by his goalpost twice on chances by Jiri Hudler and Pavel Datsyuk.
“We had a couple posts tonight, a couple chances where we just missed him,” said Detroit forward Kirk Maltby. “It seems like in this little stretch here, we’ve had lots of chances but we’re not just finishing.”
Kiprusoff was coming off a rare night off Wednesday night as Curtis Joseph got the start in the Flames’ 3-2 victory over Dallas. It was just the third time Kiprusoff had been rested all season.
Tanguay’s fluke goal at 11:54 of the first period came from behind the Detroit net.
After snapping a 16-game scoring drought with a pair of goals in Wednesday’s game, Tanguay got his 14th of the season when his centring attempt hit Detroit defenceman Brett Lebda in the arm and ricocheted past an unsuspecting Chris Osgood.
Other than that, Osgood was also excellent in goal making 25 saves.
“He made some huge saves,” said Conroy. “It’s Detroit, it’s almost like when a wounded animal is more dangerous than normal. They’ve got very good players. All their offensive guys, those guys are unbelievable, it’s never an easy game.”
Calgary had a 50-second two-man advantage early in the second period in which they kept trying to set up the big slap shot from Dion Phaneuf from the blue-line, but Phaneuf had one shot turned aside by Osgood and fired another blast wide of the net.
Phaneuf entered the night red-hot with points in six straight games (4 goals, 6 assists), a streak which came to an end.
Notes: Kiprusoff had gone 50 starts at home without a shutout. His last one at the Pengrowth Saddledome was Jan. 9, 2007, a 3-0 win over Minnesota… Calgary D Jim Vandermeer made his Flames debut after being acquired Wednesday from the Philadelphia Flyers. Vandermeer partnered on defence with Dion Phaneuf, who like Vandermeer also played his junior hockey with the Red Deer Rebels (WHL). However, the two never played there at the same time with Phaneuf’s four seasons beginning in 2001-02, the year after Vandermeer’s fourth and final season… Taking Lidstrom’s place and making his NHL debut was D Jonathan Ericsson. The 23-year-old Swede was recalled Wednesday from Grand Rapids (AHL). Of the injured defencemen, Kronwall is closest to returning and could play Saturday night in Vancouver.