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One and only Flames

Calgary Flames goalie Miikka Kiprusoff in action during the first period at Scotiabank Place in...

Calgary Flames goalie Miikka Kiprusoff in action during the first period at Scotiabank Place in Ottawa on Thursday night. (Ottawa Sun/Blair Gable)

STEVE MACFARLANE -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 10:33 AM ET

OTTAWA -- Both teams came into their fourth game trying to rediscover their identities.

The Calgary Flames were looking for the defensive and physically dominant display fans have become accustomed to over the past two seasons.

The Ottawa Senators were searching for the scoring touch that carried them to an NHL-best 312 goals last season.

It was the Flames who packed the biggest punch in a low-scoring but exciting 1-0 win at Scotiabank Place.

More specifically, it was defenceman Dion Phaneuf and goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff.

Phaneuf's impact was instantly palpable.

After the visitors were knocked around by an aggressive Senators group for much of the first, Phaneuf punctuated the Flames' resurgence with a powerful hit on winger Denis Hamel -- who had his head down as he entered the hostile zone -- late in the second.

"They had some big hits in the first period," said Flames centre Daymond Langkow. "I thought that was the difference from the second period on. We got a couple of big hits from Dion and I think that really got us going."

Phaneuf launched Hamel backwards, a good four feet into the air, with a perfectly placed blast from the shoulder that made Hamel look like a rookie ski-jumper trying to avoid landing on his head.

The fact Phaneuf got the shot in while Sens enforcer Chris Neil was on the ice was the cherry on top, especially since the home side's pests, Neil and Brian McGrattan, were doing their best to rattle the Flames early.

"Obviously he's not scared of those guys. That's what you need," said Langkow of Phaneuf.

"He makes a couple of big hits. It really gets the guys up and makes you want to do the same thing.

"Hopefully we learned something tonight. That's how we have to play every period."

But it was Kiprusoff, the key to a Stanley Cup final appearance in 2004 and a Northwest Division title last season, who moved the Flames back to the .500 mark with the victory.

Facing a number of odd-man rushes and a dangerous Senators powerplay, Kiprusoff turned away shot after shot, 33 in all, to come away with his first shutout of the season.

And he saved his best for last as the Flames killed a pair of late penalties during a frantic finish.

"What can you say? He was unbelievable," said Langkow. "Both goalies made some huge saves tonight. It was back and forth. I think, overall, it was a good game to watch."

Making a statement of his own in the goaltending battle with 27 saves, Ray Emery made a handful of stellar stops to keep the goal-starved Flames off the scoreboard for nearly 52 minutes until Jarome Iginla spun and backhanded a deflected Kristian Huselius shot behind the Sens backup.

Emery said he would like that one back.

"I thought that we did a good job of matching that defensive effort tonight. it's a shame they got a funny one at the end there to seal the deal," he said.

"Funny things happen like that sometimes."

Coaches on both sides were certainly holding their breath at times as things opened up offensively for brief spurts -- a sign of two underachieving teams eager to turn things around before the hole gets overwhelmingly deep.

"I think it was two teams playing desperate hockey," said Flames bench boss Jim Playfair.

"If you're a fan, that's a great game. For a coaching staff, it's lots more work."

The monstrous hit was appreciated by Playfair as much as it was by the fans watching on pay-per-view back in Calgary or the large contingent wearing the Flaming C at the rink.

"That's part of Dion's identity. That's part of what makes him an invested player," said Playfair.


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