SUN Hockey Pool

Eriksson saves the day

STEVE MACFARLANE -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:11 AM ET

SUNRISE, Fla. -- In a classic goaltending battle, the biggest save was made by a defenceman.

Miikka Kiprusoff had just been pulled for an extra attacker and Florida Panthers winger Rostislav Olesz was streaking up the wing to lock up a victory, but Anders Eriksson got his body in front of the would-be clincher.

Seconds later, Jarome Iginla knocked the first puck past Tomas Vokoun to send the game to overtime, and help push the Calgary Flames to a 2-1 shootout win.

Former Panther Kristian Huselius was the only player to score in the showdown.

Some of Eriksson's teammates -- including Kiprusoff -- didn't see the critical block from the bench, but a fidgity Craig Conroy sure did.

"Oh yeah. I was like praying, 'Somebody stop the puck' just to give us a chance. It's over (if they score). Bubba made a great play."

Noting that Eriksson was the goat in a shootout loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins last week when the puck bounced over his stick to lead to a tying goal in the third period, Conroy was even more excited about last night's sequence of events.

"You always get a chance to redeem yourself in sports, and that's what's so fun about it," Conroy said.

Eriksson was happy to do his part in what could be a momentum-building comeback that has the Flames off to a 2-0 start on a six-game road trip that continues in Tampa tomorrow.

"Too bad you can't get a helper on that," whispered the Swede after making a crack about his big feet and laughing at the suggestion he had read the scouting report on Olesz.

"No, you're just trying to line up in front of it and hope it hits you. It was lucky."

To a degree, so was the tying goal that followed.

Robyn Regehr hit Alex Tanguay with a long feed and the winger sent it to his captain in front of the net.

It hit a Panthers defender and, with 10.2 seconds on the clock, Iginla swatted it past Vokoun, who was that close to celebrating his second straight shutout.

It was a homecoming of sorts for head coach Mike Keenan and Huselius, who both appeared at the BankAtlantic Center for the first time since leaving the team under separate, but somewhat unpleasant, circumstances.

Keenan dealt the inconsistent playmaker from Florida to Calgary less than a year before he was fired as the Panthers general manager.

Huselius was showered with boos as he lined up at centre ice for the shootout attempt and made good with a backhand deke over the pads of Vokoun -- the perfect way to silence the tiny crowd.

"One (teammate) asked me if it was 'boo' or 'Huse,' " joked Huselius.

"It doesn't matter, it was nice to see it go in. We deserved to score at least one goal."

Kiprusoff again made timely saves to keep his team in contention.

Always on top of his game against the Flames, Vokoun was spectacular in keeping his opponents at bay until the dying seconds.

"We had better chances earlier in the night. That feels good," said Iginla, who finally matched Olli Jokinen's second-period tally. "We were creating a lot, especially in the first period.

"It was one of those games where we felt what can you do but keep going to the net. You're on the bench and you've got to believe you're going to get one. It was almost right to the buzzer, but those kind of feel the best.

"Those are big boosts, those OT wins."


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