CALGARY – A lethal power play and the usual spectacular goaltending from Miikka Kiprusoff was a deadly combination for the Calgary Flames on Friday night.
Kiprusoff made 42 saves and Alex Tanguay had four points, his best night offensively in nearly three years, as Calgary earned a pivotal 5-3 victory over the Winnipeg Jets in a showdown between two teams fighting for a playoff spot.
It’s the 30th win for Kiprusoff, the seventh season in a row the 35-year-old has reached that mark.
“Kipper was great, you can’t say enough about the guy,” said Flames winger Curtis Glencross, who scored his 24th goal to tie his career high. “He’s our MVP and he saves a lot of games for us. That game could have gone either way tonight. It was an outstanding performance.”
Tanguay assisted on two power-play goals as the Flames took a 2-0 lead less than seven minutes into the game. After scoring the only goal of the second period to make it 4-2 for Calgary, Tanguay set up to Glencross on another power play at 11:28 of the third, capping off a perfect three-for-three night with the extra man.
“The puck just kept coming back to us. I wish there was a special secret I could tell you guys but it was just working,” said Tanguay, when asked to explain the performance of the power play, which scored more than once in a game for the first time since Dec. 18. “This time of year, especially with the amount of bodies we have out of our line-up right now, special units are going to be key and our power play was certainly the difference tonight.”
Jarome Iginla, Mark Giordano and Matt Stajan also scored for Calgary (31-25-12), which picks up five of six points on a three-game homestand,
That hot streak has put Calgary into a three-way tie for ninth in the NHL’s Western Conference, tied with Colorado and Los Angeles, one point back of eighth place San Jose and two points back of Phoenix.
However, the Flames hold a game in hand on Colorado and have more regulation/overtime wins (28) than Los Angeles (27).
Evander Kane, Blake Wheeler and Tobias Enstrom scored for Winnipeg (32-29-8). The Jets fall three points back of the Southeast Division-leading Florida Panthers, who lost in overtime to Pittsburgh on Friday.
Winnipeg remains tied in points with Washington for eighth in the Eastern Conference, but the Capitals hold two games in hand.
“We outshot them, we had over 40 shots, we got pucks to the net, but their goalie made some key saves,” said Kane. “We gave up three goals on the power play too, gave up five goals collectively, it’s tough to win hockey games that way.”
The Jets are off for four days before returning to action against Dallas on Wednesday.
“Watching other teams that we need to lose, that’s going to be especially tough,” said Jets forward Bryan Little. “When we come back on Wednesday, we still have lots of games left with teams in our division. We’re right in there and are going to fight to the end.”
The four points are the most for Tanguay in a game since he played with Montreal and had a five-point game (two goals, three assists) on Mar. 24, 2009 against the Atlanta Thrashers.
Perhaps most impressed with Tanguay’s performance was 19-year-old Flames prospect Sven Baertschi, who made his NHL debut.
Baertschi was called up from the Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League on an emergency basis due to the Flames injury woes, which includes seven missing forwards.
“He’s great to watch, it’s awesome. The skill level he has, the passes he makes, the way he fakes out the goalie today, it’s something I dream of,” said Baertschi, who Calgary took 13th overall in the 2011 entry draft.
Baertschi played left wing on the Flames third line with Greg Nemisz and Tom Kostopoulous and, although he didn’t get in on the scoring in his nine minutes of ice time, he showed glimpses of the speed and skill that has helped him rack up 33 goals and 94 points in 47 WHL games this season.
Hosting the Winnipeg Jets at the Saddledome for the first time since Mar. 31, 1996, the two sides engaged in a spirited and highly entertaining back-and-forth game much like the entertaining the two Western Canadian teams played back in the late 80s and early 90s.
The game featured countless odd-man rushes, breakaways, goal posts, and missed empty nets, thoroughly entertaining the raucous sell-out crowd of 19,289, which featured a large number of blue and white Jets jerseys—both retro and new.
“The atmosphere in the building was great. The Jets fans were here and they were very loud and that helps our crowd as well as they’re trying to match up and over-cheer the Jets fans. It was a lot of fun,” said Tanguay.
Pavelec had 22 stops for the Jets..
After digging themselves an early 3-0 hole, the Jets got back into the game on Kane’s goal at 17:31 and Wheeler’s beautiful individual effort with 27 seconds left in the period.
Notes: Winnipeg dressed only 11 forwards, which was reduced to 10 when RW Chris Thorburn (undisclosed) left the game in the first period…Baertschi, who wore No. 47, becomes the 39th player to suit up for the Flames this season…It was the first time in 35 games Calgary has scored more than once on the power play…Calgary has opened the scoring in 10 straight games…Stajan’s goal was the 100th of his career…Iginla’s 512th career goals ties him for 37th all-time with Gilbert Perreault.