SUN Hockey Pool

Sanford and stun

STEVE MACFARLANE -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 9:45 AM ET

The Calgary Flames got up close and personal with the opposing goaltender last night.

Curtis Sanford saw a whole lot of red sweaters swarming his crease, as the Flames' game plan of going hard to the net paid off in a 3-1 win over the St. Louis Blues at the Saddledome.

"We kind of made it a point -- the coaches did in the meetings," said Flames winger Shean Donovan, who opened the scoring early in the first period. "We've got to get ugly goals and start driving the net. I thought we did a lot better job of driving to the net. Everybody did it tonight."

The Flames didn't manage to put all their scoring chances past Sanford but a pair of goals from Jarome Iginla, including a deflection into an open net in the final seconds, and one from Donovan were enough to help Calgary's Miikka Kiprusoff to become the first goaltender to earn 30 wins in the NHL this season.

Kiprusoff wasn't tested early -- he faced just two shots in the opening 20 minutes -- but was stellar in the second and third periods as the Blues tried to mount a comeback.

Despite his inactivity in the first, the Flames netminder was especially sharp on blasts by Lee Stempniak, Scott Young and Ryan Johnson in the second period.

Stempniak finally got the Blues on the board with 6:13 left in the game.

He took a Keith Tkachuk pass from behind the net and wristed it far side past Kiprusoff, who couldn't get out of his net quickly enough.

That made the score 2-1 and set up the contest's frantic finish.

"It was a good game," said Kiprusoff.

"First period, I had (to make) two saves. They played well defensively."

Kiprusoff added it wasn't difficult to stay focused despite the initial inactivity.

"I'm used to it," he said.

It didn't take long for the Flames -- a team often content to dump and chase or try to make things happen from the perimeter -- to show a determination to get to the goal-mouth.

On his first shift, Chuck Kobasew took a long feed off the boards and drove to the net, creating a great scoring chance with an inside move to his backhand that fooled Blues defenceman Barret Jackman.

Sanford, starting for the second time in as many nights, didn't bite on the fake as hard as his defender and came up with the save.

Donovan, who used his speed along the boards at every opportunity, opened the scoring just 3:18 into the game.

Linemate Chris Simon started the play, nearly slipping a bad-angle shot past Sanford.

With a pair of red jerseys battling the Blues for the rebound, Donovan picked the loose puck off the side boards and zipped behind the net before tucking it past Sanford on the far side to give the Flames a 1-0 lead.

"It's always nice to score," said Donovan, sporting a wide grin. "Can't say that's my move but maybe it'd be nice to try again.

"If it works, I'll use anything."

With four powerplays in the opening 20 minutes, the Flames dominated the play and fired 13 shots Sanford's way.

With 28 seconds on the powerplay to start the second period, Iginla extended Calgary's lead.

The Flames captain's 26th goal of the season wasn't his most difficult but was important for a home team that struggles to get that key second goal to pad a lead.

After Mike Leclerc's attempt to jam it in failed on a rush from the corner, Iginla pounced on the motionless puck in the crease and poked it over Sanford.

Kiprusoff made 20 stops -- 18 of them over the final two frames -- for the league-leading victory.

Sanford kept things close with 28 stops.

The Flames continue their homestand tomorrow when the San Jose Sharks come calling (8 p.m., CBC).


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