Six and counting

Toronto Maple Leafs Jeff O'Neill (centre) pushes his way past Calgary Flames goalie Mikka Kiprusoff...

Toronto Maple Leafs Jeff O'Neill (centre) pushes his way past Calgary Flames goalie Mikka Kiprusoff (left) and Robyn Regehr during first period NHL hockey action in Calgary, Friday, Jan. 6, 2006.(CP PHOTO/Jeff McIntosh)

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 1:53 PM ET

Miikka Kiprusoff opened the door a crack.

Then he slammed it in the Leafs faces to put a stamp of authority on the shutout that puts him at the top of the Calgary Flames' all-time record book.

Looking for proof the Calgary netminder is back on top of his game?

Look no further than his clutch penalty-killing performance midway through the third period of last night's 1-0 victory over Toronto.

"He was seeing it," said defenceman Rhett Warrener of his goaltender. "He was in position and the defence and forwards were doing a good job of getting in front of shots or letting him see the shot, and any time he sees the shot, he's going to stop it.

"He was huge again for us."

Assessed a holding penalty amidst a scramble, Kiprusoff knew the heat was on him during the ensuing Maple Leafs powerplay.

And then he put on a netminding clinic to make the difference in an excellent goaltenders' duel.

During that fateful two minutes, Kiprusoff:

* Smothered a point shot from Bryan McCabe, the NHL's top-scoring defenceman;

* Kicked out a Tomas Kaberle point shot;

* Denied Leafs captain Mats Sundin on a close-in shot;

* Stoned McCabe a second time off the point; and

* Blocked another Sundin effort coming off the rush.

The end result, after another half period of perfection, was Calgary's sixth victory in seven outings to improve its Northwest Division-leading record to 25-12-4.

Kiprusoff's sixth shutout of the season -- for which he needed 27 saves -- also sets a new standard in Flames history, quite the accomplishment considering the more wide-open game seen this season in the NHL.

Not to mention the fact there's still 41 games remaining on the docket.

"I think it says a lot about our team, how we play," said Kiprusoff. "We did a good job in our end.

"I don't think about (a record) too much."

The previous mark of five goose-eggs was set by four goaltenders, Dan Bouchard, Phil Myre, Fred Brathwaite (twice) and Roman Turek.

Despite the low score, the clash was exciting from the drop of the puck.

Right off the hop, the 19,289 who packed the Saddledome to boisterously show their support for either side -- not all were wearing red sweaters -- were treated to plenty of end-to-end action.

The scoreless first period alone saw plenty of scoring chances at both ends, with Ed Belfour matching Kiprusoff's perfection save-for-save.

The Flames came out with more jump than the Leafs to start the second period and were rewarded when Robyn Regehr opened the scoring five minutes into the frame.

An unsuccessful clearing attempt ended up on Regehr's stick and the defenceman's fluttering backhand from just inside the blueline somehow eluded Belfour, appearing to deflect off the stick of Leafs defenceman Alexander Khavanov.

And then the action heated up.

Calgary's Matthew Lombardi hit the post seconds after the game's lone goal missing out on the chance to double the hosts' lead during a furiously one-sided performance to begin the period.

Calgary was so dominant in the middle period, it took Toronto nine minutes to get its first shot on goal, a Clarke Wilm one-timer, and didn't get another for nearly five more minutes.

But then the Leafs cranked it up, only to be denied a couple of times by Kiprusoff and also the victims of tough luck when Jeff O'Neill missed the net with most of it open.

As good as Kiprusoff was, Belfour was no slouch despite taking a loss that snapped his team's six-game winning streak and drops Toronto's mark to 23-15-3.

Belfour kept his team in the chase with several big stops among the 27 he made.

The biggest came with four minutes remaining in regulation, when he twice stopped shots from Darren McCarty.

The Flames are in Vancouver tonight to face a Canucks team they've beat in the four previous meetings this season.

- - -

CALGARY FLAMES: 1

TORONTO MAPPLE LEAFS: 0


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