Living up to money game

Miikka Kiprusoff makes a save in a game against the Predators on Tuesday in Calgary. (SUN...

Miikka Kiprusoff makes a save in a game against the Predators on Tuesday in Calgary. (SUN MEDIA/Brett Gundlock)

STEVE MACFARLANE -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:26 AM ET

Miikka Kiprusoff found the perfect way to say thanks for his new multi-million-dollar deal.

The Calgary Flames goaltender stopped 39 shots to lead his team to a 5-1 victory over the Nashville Predators last night in front of the 100th consecutive regular-season sellout crowd at the Saddledome.

"For sure, he expressed his gratitude, because we left him out in many situations far too often," said head coach Mike Keenan, wearing a wide smile.

"If you're coaching the hockey club, you don't want to see that many shots against. But he played exceptionally well and responded well.

"As we got a little bit careless in the third period, he even got better. He was at the top of his game tonight."

The soft-spoken, laid-back Finn never doubted he would remain a Flame, but admitted he was hyped up for last night's game. He didn't cite the six-year, $35-million extension he signed this week as the source of his motivation, but it didn't need to be said.

"You want to play well, but also there was some extra there," said Kiprusoff. "I know I'm able to play better than I've been playing.

"Pretty nice day."

A shutout would have been sweet, and he came one save shy of what would have been his first of the season. Only Alexander Radulov managed to beat Kiprusoff on the night: A powerplay goal early in the third period that might have deflected into the top corner.

The Flames played a strong couple of periods and built up a 3-0 lead on goals from Jarome Iginla, Matthew Lombardi and Kristian Huselius.

But the Predators wouldn't quit, and the game felt unfinished until Eric Nystrom's first NHL goal with a little more than five minutes to play.

A lesser game from Kiprusoff and a courageous group of penalty killers and the Flames might have been disappointed.

"It probably was his best one of the year," Iginla, who closed out the scoring with his second of the night in the final minute, said of his netminder. "But when he gets in a groove, he's unbeatable, and he looked that way tonight."

As for the new deal, Kiprusoff was able to be as calm after the game while addressing it for the first time since it was announced Monday as he was while deflecting the Predators' many shots.

"I'm really happy with that," said Kiprusoff. "Hopefully, I think it's good both for me and the Flames. Can't ask more."

Truth is, he could have asked more, and would have received more on the open market. He knows it, too.

"Of course, if you know you're going to be a free agent, it's one option. But I wanted to stay here," he said. "It's a good team, my family likes it here. I was positive it was going to happen."

Credit the fans -- those same ones who filled the building for the 100th time last night -- for making it an environment that appeals to the former Vezina winner.

"It's huge. It's so much different if you play in empty rinks. That's one part I do like," said Kiprusoff. "It's an unbelievable place to play hockey."

After last night's performance, Calgary's got nothing bad to say about Kiprusoff, either.


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