Kiprusoff can't do it alone

STEVE MACFARLANE -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 9:54 AM ET

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- With one deadly strike, the Minnesota Wild ended the visitors' hopes of a series sweep.

Brian Rolston's shorthanded effort late in the second period also helped stop the Calgary Flames' five-game winning streak against Minnesota as the Wild came away with a 3-1 win at the Xcel Energy Center last night.

Calgary netminder Miikka Kiprusoff did his best to keep his team in the game but the Flames couldn't muster any great chances in the third period as the Wild continued to attack, nearly doubling the Flames in shots by the final buzzer.

"I don't think it's so much what they did, I think it's what we didn't do," said centre Byron Ritchie, who scored Calgary's only goal.

"We didn't do what we did in the first game Sunday (a 3-2 Flames win).

"We didn't get pucks deep enough and we got too many turnovers at their blueline.

"That's what they strive on -- the counter-attack. We relied on Kipper way too much."

Rolston gave the Wild the lead late in the last minute of the second period with an incredible individual effort.

The versatile forward, who's enjoying a career year, poked the puck past Flames rookie Dion Phaneuf at the blueline and won the foot race to break in alone on Kiprusoff.

To put the finishing touch on the outstanding play, Rolston faked out Kiprusoff and slipped the puck in a narrow gap around the goaltender's stick and through the five-hole.

Phaneuf took the blame.

"I've got to make a smarter read," he said. "I can't jump in there. He pushed it by me and beat me in a foot race. I can't make that play."

After struggling through an ugly first period, both teams seemed to come alive in the second.

Just when you thought there wasn't going to be any scoring, Ritchie opened the scoring in the second period.

Taking a drop pass from Marcus Nilson, Ritchie rifled a shot high into the far side as Shean Donovan provided a screen in front of Wild goaltender Manny Fernandez.

The play was set up by Kiprusoff's toe save on Stephane Veilleux at the other end, which sprung the Flames trio on the rush.

The 1-0 lead didn't last long.

Marian Gaborik took advantage of a powerplay with a blast from the point that changed direction after hitting traffic in front. Gaborik's 31st goal of the season is a Wild franchise record. He added an empty-netter with 30 seconds to play to clinch the team's second win against Calgary this season.

With important games down the stretch, both teams looked afraid to make a mistake in the first period.

But by playing that way -- which was painful to watch for fans -- the mistakes were even more obvious in the absence of exciting plays.

Passes were off-target and fired without much confidence. Players were left without support in both the offensive and defensive zones.

Shots, although the Wild managed 10 of them at Kiprusoff in the opening frame, were few and far between.

The Flames' best chance was an Andrew Ference slapper from inside the blueline after the Wild defender fell along the boards to give Ference a clear lane.

Fernandez got his glove on it.

"It wasn't a good enough 60 minutes of hockey by our team," Phaneuf said.

"They're a good, skilled team that works hard.

"We have to be better, not only individually but as a team."

The Flames play St. Louis tomorrow night, then face Columbus in their second back-to-back set of the week.


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