SUN Hockey Pool

Goalie looks great

ROBIN BROWNLEE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 10:41 AM ET

CALGARY -- The Calgary Flames showed up with three straight losses, signifying something of a detour in the Stanley Cup parade route many boosters have already mapped out.

The Edmonton Oilers limped into the Pengrowth Saddledome last night with two-thirds of their top line - Shawn Horcoff and Ryan Smyth - out with injuries, their power play suddenly lame, and on the wrong of the score for two games in a row.

Neither side in the Battle of Alberta arrived unscathed, although that did little to lessen the intensity and nothing to diminish the importance of the provincial skirmish - now eight games - to the playoff aspirations of both.

33 SAVES

Score round one for the Flames, who'll be back on the road to success in a hurry if 2004 playoff hero Miikka Kiprusoff plays as he did last night, kicking out 33 shots to frustrate the Oilers like he always does - this time 3-0.

"We're back down the same path we've been in the past," said coach Craig MacTavish, who wasn't giving Kiprusoff all of the credit.

"We made the goaltender look great.

"The veteran forwards have to score a goal. I mean, there wasn't a lot separating Kyle Brodziak, who was playing his first game, and our best forward tonight. That's a problem."

Kiprusoff, sporting an unflattering 4.45 goals-against average and .856 saves-percentage, was back in form, making goals by Daymond Langkow, Jarome Iginla and Rhett Warrener stand up to send the Oilers to their third straight defeat.

"It doesn't matter if we get 100 shots, we have to score," said a frustrated Jarret Stoll. "You can't get shut out. Yes, he played great, but we have to find a way to get the puck in the net."

As bad as Calgary's power play had been - it came in 30th in the NHL at a feeble 2-for-31 clip - it got the Flames on the board first when Langkow poked a rebound past Jussi Markkanen 9:53 in.

When Cory Cross handed Iginla the rubber at his blue line and he hummed it past Markkanen, it was the third time in four games the Oilers had given up a 2-0 lead. That was plenty for Kiprusoff, who allowed the Oilers just three goals in the three games in which he faced them in 2003-04.

"They're hard to avoid," MacTavish said of the six-minute stretch in the first period, the kind of lapses he saw in losses to Los Angeles and Dallas. "The problem we have is we don't survive them.

"Every team goes through them, but we, until this point, have not been able to survive those stretches.

"Whether it's poor positioning, a breakdown by an individual, whatever the case may be, we have to make sure we're surviving more of those small stretches."

WRITING ON THE WALL

When the Oilers power play, red hot early but cold as a stiff in its last two games at 0-for-11 coming in, couldn't put a puck past Kiprusoff on a 5-on-3 advantage for a full two minutes early in the second period, the writing was on the wall.

"Obviously, them being in our division and with eight games against them, Colorado, Vancouver and Minnesota, those are 32 games that are huge in where we're going to finish," Chris Pronger said.

"It's no secret with Calgary and Edmonton that whoever wins that series over the last five, six, seven years has gone on to make the playoffs. We know that and we need to focus on that."

AROUND THE RINK: Raffi Torres took a puck in the mouth on Warrener's 3-0 goal and suffered a cut lower lip and lost a tooth ... the Oilers' power play is 0-for-19 in its last three games.


Photos