PLAYOFF SERIES: Western Conference quarterfinals; Flames lead 3-2.
Miikka Kiprusoff has been a steady presence in goal for Calgary in its quarterfinal series with Vancouver.
The Canucks can’t say the same about their goaltending.
Kiprusoff and the Flames will try to win their first playoff series since winning the Stanley Cup in 1989 when they meet the Canucks in Game 6 at Pengrowth Saddledome.
The Flames ended the NHL’s longest playoff drought at eight years, finishing sixth in the Western Conference with 94 points—their highest total since 1993-94.
The two players most responsible for bringing the Flames back to the postseason are Kiprusoff and captain Jarome Iginla.
Kiprusoff began this season as San Jose’s third-string goalie, but found new life when he was acquired by Calgary on Nov. 16. He quickly became the Flames’ starter and went on to set an NHL record with a 1.69 goals-against average, bettering Marty Turco’s 1.72 mark set last season.
He has a 1.81 GAA thus far in this series, and on Thursday night, made 32 saves as Calgary won 2-1 to take a 3-2 lead in the series.
“Kipper has been so good for us all season, and this series he’s been standing on his head again,” said Iginla, who has a team-high three goals and five points in the series after scoring the winning goal at 5:37 of the third period Thursday.
“We have so much confidence in him. We knew it would be a tough series, we knew it would be a long one. We didn’t expect anything different. Now we’re in a good position, but as good as it feels, it’s about getting ready for Game 6 and having a chance to close it at home.”
Kiprusoff, who had his shutout streak of 114 minutes, 50 seconds come to an end on Henrik Sedin’s second-period goal, has allowed just four goals in the last four games.
“I’m pretty calm out there. That’s the way I’ve always been playing,” Kiprusoff said. “The next game, they will come harder—that’s for sure. They have excellent skaters and we have to be ready for them.”
Vancouver has started three goalies in this series, including rookie Alex Auld in Thursday’s loss.
Dan Cloutier sprained his right ankle late in the first period of Vancouver’s 2-1 win in Game 3 on Sunday and is out for the remainder of the series. Johan Hedberg started Game 4, and lost 4-0 as the Flames evened the series at 2-all.
Then on Thursday, Vancouver coach Marc Crawford decided to go with Auld, who has played just 14 regular-season NHL games and spent most of this season with the Manitoba Moose of the AHL.
“Our game doesn’t change,” Cooke said. “We have to play the same right across the board—Cloutch, Johan or Alex.”
Salo said personnel changes are part of the game.
“Whether it’s goaltending changes or D-partners or linemates, everybody’s professional. You have to adapt to whatever happens out there.”
Crawford said the Canucks need to increase their level of play if they intend to send the series to a Game 7 in Vancouver on Monday.
“We still have to find another notch,” Crawford said. “Throughout the lineup there are guys that can play more of a role in that domain. We’ve got to have everybody. There’s more for our guys to give, there’s got to be. You’ve got to find more.”
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Canucks - 101 points; 3rd seed. Flames - 94 points; 6th seed.
PLAYOFF TEAM LEADERS: Canucks - Markus Naslund, 2 goals and 5 points, Naslund, Brendan Morrison and Ed Jovanovski, 3 assists; Mattias Ohlund, 11 PIM. Flames - Iginla, 3 goals and 5 points; Jordan Leopold, 3 assists; Ville Nieminen and Chris Clark, 10 PIM.
PLAYOFF SPECIAL TEAMS: Canucks - Power play: 24.1 percent (7 for 29). Penalty killing: 87.1 percent (27 for 31). Flames - Power play: 12.9 percent (4 for 31). Penalty killing: 75.9 percent (22 for 29).
GOALTENDERS: Canucks - Hedberg (1-1, 2.45 GAA); Auld (0-1, 2.03). Flames - Kiprusoff (3-2, 1 SO, 1.81); Roman Turek (no appearances).