Showdown curse lives

STEVE MACFARLANE

, Last Updated: 12:17 PM ET

BUFFALO -- The overtime action was fast and furious.

For the Calgary Flames, motivation was easy to peg -- they wanted to do whatever they could to avoid another shootout.

It's the albatross around their necks, the curse they can't seem to break. And last night in Buffalo, it was their downfall for a fifth time this season as they fell 3-2 in a game they deserved to win.

The hero, had they held onto a late 2-1 lead, would have been Miikka Kiprusoff. And no one deserved the kudos more than the Flames goaltender after he stopped 32 shots against the Eastern Conference's best team.

"Tough loss," said Kiprusoff, who allowed only one goal in the showdown but got no support from his side's shooters -- Dion Phaneuf, Matthew Lombardi and Kristian Huselius.

"I think we played pretty well. It's at least one point on the road and we just have to win (tonight in Detroit).

Frustrating finish? Yes. A step in the right direction? Definitely.

"Stopped two today -- so next game, three or four," said Kiprusoff. "It's going the right direction so I have to think positive."

Huselius and captain Jarome Iginla both admit there's a lack of confidence when the game goes to the showdown and it's costing them points they'd love to have in order to pull away from their Northwest Division rivals.

"The brain starts trying too hard and thinking a little too much," said Iginla, who thought Kiprusoff made some good stops on Daniel Briere and Tomas Vanek.

"They made some good moves. Kipper made a great stop on Briere It could have gone either way, unfortunately right now in the shootout we're not getting them."

Huselius opened the scoring with a beautiful powerplay goal early in the second period, faking a shot from the high slot and then sneaking closer before leaning into a wrist shot that was perfectly placed over Ryan Miller's blocker.

But the Swede who packs some nifty moves in his breakaway arsenal couldn't beat Miller in the shootout.

"Obviously we haven't done a good enough job to bear down (in shootouts)," said Huselius. "I think right now it's a mental thing for us. It seems like even when we play good -- and we did today, we got a point here in Buffalo, a tough place to play -- then it comes to the shootout and we can't find ways to win.

"It feels like we don't have the confidence to win a shootout right now. It's just unfortunate but today was, for sure, a step in the right direction for us on the road."

Tomas Vanek tied the game late in the second period on a miscue that left Kiprusoff high and dry.

David Moss gave the Flames another lead but Briere got a lucky break when the puck bounced to him behind the Flames net and allowed him to walk out and lift a backhand shot over Kiprusoff with two minutes to play in regulation.

"I think everyone's a bit frustrated but I think you need to take the positives out of the game and move on," said Moss. "We know Buffalo's a good team, they played hard and it was a hard-fought game."

Kiprusoff was great in regulation, especially early in the game when the home side pressed for the opening goal.

He turned away Nathan Paetsch from the hash marks after the defenceman dressed as a forward one-timed a giveaway that should have resulted in his first goal of the season.

The Flames backstop followed up with a quick pad save on Briere and stymied Maxim Afinogenov.

But once again, he was bested in the shootout, in which he has now allowed seven goals on 10 attempts.


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