CALGARY – Defenceman Derek Smith scored his first NHL goal, and veteran Miikka Kiprusoff made it stand up for his first shutout of the season.
Kiprusoff made 26 saves as the Calgary Flames won 1-0 over the Nashville Predators on Tuesday.
“I think we played pretty smart. They only had one or two very good chances,” said Kiprusoff, who earned career shutout No. 41.
Kiprusoff’s busiest stretch of action came with under five minutes remaining when Nashville racked up five shots on goal on a late power play but were unable to solve the 35-year-old Finn.
“We have to get a little more greasy in these one-puck games where it’s 1-0,” said Predators coach Barry Trotz. “You’ve got to get to the blue paint, get that mental drive and see if you can find a loose puck and put pucks in there. We need to get a little more of a shoot first mentality.”
Smith scored the game’s only goal with 1:10 left in the first period.
Rookie defenceman T.J. Brodie skated in from the point and sent a perfect pass through the slot to Smith, who neatly steered the puck behind goaltender Pekka Rinne.
“It was unbelievable, it’s been a long time coming,” said Smith, who was playing in his 28th career NHL game. “Brods made a great play, and I was lucky enough to be on the other end of it.”
Solving Rinne was something the Flames were unable to do a month ago at the Scotiabank Saddledome when the six-foot-five goaltender turned aside all 33 shots in a 2-0 Nashville victory. On Tuesday, his 28 saves would not be good enough.
“We seem to play a lot of low scoring games against Calgary. It was a tight checking game all the way through. Kiprusoff played well and they played well defensively,” Rinne said.
Calgary (10-12-1) will go for another first on Thursday night when they go after their first three-game winning streak of the season against the visiting Columbus Blue Jackets.
Nashville (11-9-4) falls to 1-3-0 with one stop remaining on a five-game road trip, which concludes Thursday in Vancouver.
Smith, 27, was signed by Calgary on July 13 as a free agent after four seasons in the Ottawa Senators organization. He spent most of his time with Binghamton of the American Hockey League, where he had 10 goals and a career-best 54 points in 71 games last season.
At the time of the goal, the defence pairing of Smith and Brodie—with 40 career NHL games between them—made up half of the Flames defence with Scott Hannan and Jay Bouwmeester the other two.
The shortage on the blue-line was the result of two defencemen going down with injuries in separate incidents just minutes earlier.
Assistant captain Mark Giordano took a wrist shot from Matt Halischuk off the ankle and had to be helped off the ice. Then Chris Butler had a Nashville shoot-in deflect up sharply into his face, sending him immediately to the Flames dressing room for repairs.
Butler was back to start the second period but Giordano did not return, diagnosed with a lower body injury.
“Everybody’s got to step up when you get down to four or five ‘D’, you play smart, use the first option,” Smith said.
Brodie, 21, has been impressive since his recall from Abbotsford (AHL) Nov. 9, chalking up a goal and three assists in nine games.
“At training camp I was concentrating on defence, so I got away from the way I played before,” Brodie said. “I have to be aware back there, be accountable, and when I have the opportunities to jump up, be a part of the offence.”
Kiprusoff’s best stop came five minutes into the second period, when he slid across, jabbing out his right pad, to deny a dangerous chance off the stick of David Legwand.
That save, which preserved the Flames 1-0 lead, came immediately after a close call at the other end where Flames rookie centre Roman Horak, looking for his first goal in 14 games, fired a shot that hit one goal post, caromed across the face of the net and squarely hit the other goal post, but stayed out.
“You can’t trade chances with anybody in this league, especially Nashville, because they play so solid,” said Smith. “We didn’t give them much tonight, and when we did, Kipper was there, like usual.”
There were only five minor penalties in the game. Nashville went 0-for-3 while the Flames were blanked in both of its attempts to fall to 2-for-44 on the power play at home, which is last in the league.
Notes: It was career win No. 296 for Kiprusoff, moving him into a tie for 30th all-time with former Flame goaltender Dan Bouchard…. Giordano has played in 187 consecutive games and is one of only three Flames (Jarome Iginla, Jay Bouwmeester) who played in all 82 games the past two years and all 23 games this year…When the Predators five-game road trip wraps up Thursday, they return home for 14 of their next 19 games. Their next multi-game road trip isn’t until a three-game trip from Jan. 16-19.