CALGARY – Even the Toronto Maple Leafs couldn’t help but be impressed with Calgary Flames goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff.
Kiprusoff made 41 saves to lead the Flames over the Maple Leafs 5-1 on Tuesday.
Leafs defenceman Dion Phaneuf wasn’t surprised to see that Kiprusoff is still on top of his game.
“He played extremely well,” said Phaneuf, who was Kiprusoff’s teammate with the Flames until a blockbuster trade sent him to the Leafs on Jan. 31, 2010.
“He’s been playing very well for them all year. He was a huge part of their win tonight. He stood on his head, that’s for sure.”
Tyler Bozak, who finished with six shots on net, was the lone Leaf to beat Kiprusoff. The veteran Calgary netminder stopped Mikhail Grabovski six times, while both Joffrey Lupul and Phil Kessel each had five shots.
Kiprusoff recorded his 26th victory of the season and 302nd of his career to move him into a tie for 25th with Turk Broda on the all-time wins list.
He left the Flames’ locker-room after the victory without speaking to media.
“He’s won a Vezina,” said Phaneuf, who fired four shots. “He knows how to win games. He’s one of the top goalies in the league. He’s had a lot of success and he played extremely well tonight for them.”
Alex Tanguay scored once and set up two others for the Flames (27-22-8), while his linemates Jarome Iginla and Olli Jokinen each finished with a goal and an assist.
“We’re feeling better about the way we’re playing as a line,” said Tanguay, who was pleased that Calgary’s top trio fared better than Toronto’s No. 1 line of Bozak, Kessel and Lupul. “We feel that when we play good…that we can be one of the top lines in the league as well.”
Paul Byron scored on a penalty shot in the second period, while Blake Comeau notched his fourth goal of the season as the Flames won their second straight.
Calgary has gone 4-0-2 in its past six games to pull within one point of the Phoenix Coyotes for eighth spot in the Western Conference playoff race.
“Every point matters now and we’re trying to make up ground to get that last playoff spot,” Byron said. “Tonight was a huge game for us and I thought we played really well.”
The Leafs (28-23-6) have now lost four straight games and are clinging onto eighth spot in the Eastern Conference, just one point ahead of Washington.
“We have to find a way to get to the front of the net and get rebounds because there were rebounds,” Toronto coach Ron Wilson said. “We got shots through. They did a pretty good job of boxing out. It’s a combination. You’ve got to give them credit and we still have to find ways to win those battles in front of the net.”
Netminder Jonas Gustavsson made 29 saves in the Toronto net.
Tanguay put the Flames up 1-0 at 4:43 of the first when he took a pass from Jokinen and snapped a shot over Gustavsson’s blocker and into the top corner.
Jokinen made it 2-0 three and a half minutes later when he one-timed a pass from Tanguay while on a 2-and-1. Phaneuf tried to break up the play, but Tanguay flipped a perfect saucer pass over to a wide-open Jokinen.
Bozak pulled the Leafs to within a goal late in the first period when he banged in a rebound off a Lupul shot. Bozak took two swipes at the puck before getting it past Kiprusoff.
“Personally I thought Bozy was one of the best players out on the ice and deserved more than just a goal,” Wilson said. “He was dangerous all night long.”
The Flames regained their two-goal lead at 9:15 of the second when Byron was awarded a penalty shot after Phaneuf hooked him from behind on a breakaway.
“I got the penalty shot and made the most of it,” Byron said. “It was a good feeling. The most important thing was getting the two-goal lead back to the team. I think we took a lot of energy from the goal.”
Phaneuf admitted that he made a mistake on the play.
“I got my stick caught in there,” Phaneuf said. “I tried to poke it at his arm. It got stuck in there. I made the decision to hook him. It was a bad decision but we move on.”
Comeau then made it 4-1 when he one-timed a pass from Michael Cammalleri past Gustavsson at 15:09 of the third period before Iginla converted a feed from Tanguay for his 22nd goal of the season.
The Flames have now won seven consecutive games over the Leafs at the Saddledome. The last time Toronto won in Calgary was on Dec. 27, 2002 when the Leafs edged the Flames 4-3
Notes: The Flames recalled Byron from the AHL’s Abbotsford Heat on Sunday the day after centre Mikael Backlund suffered an upper-body injury during a 3-2 shootout win at home over the Vancouver Canucks.…Of the seven players involved in the blockbuster trade between the Flames and Leafs on Jan. 31, 2010 only Phaneuf and Calgary forward Matt Stajan suited up for Tuesday’s game in Calgary. The Flames also acquired forwards Niklas Hagman and Jamal Mayers and defenceman Ian White in the deal, although all three have moved on to other teams.