SUN Hockey Pool

They've got our number

RANDY SPORTAK -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:30 AM ET

VANCOUVER -- Yanked from the net for the fourth time his season, Miikka Kiprusoff hasn't fully experienced the wrath of Mike Keenan and his famous hook.

In fact, you can easily make a case Kiprusoff wasn't pulled the previous three times due to a fault of his own.

However, in last night's 5-3 loss to the Vancouver Canucks, Kiprusoff was indeed the club's weak link.

"Usually when you get pulled, you haven't done your job. I can't be happy with that," Kiprusoff said on a night he made only 15 saves and surrendered five goals. "Definitely didn't play well enough to win tonight."

Keenan, who all year has been far from the advertised Iron Mike, wasn't about to let his netminder get an easy pass on a night his team should have done more to beat its division rivals from the West Coast for the first time this season.

"We gave up five goals on (20) shots. You need a little better night than that to be successful," Keenan said. "I don't think anybody can be happy. I don't think Miikka can be happy with giving up five goals.

A change was necessary.

"The defensive play wasn't spectacular, but some nights your goalie has to participate in those situations. We didn't get it from either."

Vancouver bench boss Alain Vigneault agreed.

"We don't score five goals very often, and we don't give up three very often," he said. "Their three goals were all tipped so there was nothing Louie could do there.

"I don't know if we had an offensive outburst or their goaltender had a tough night. I couldn't tell you which is which."

And Kiprusoff didn't come up with a clutch stop at key moments.

Like after the Flames (17-14-7) opened the scoring on a first-period powerplay goal from Jarome Iginla, which snapped a personal nine-game goal scoring drought against the Canucks.

Like after the visitors stunned the sellout crowd of 18,630 at GM Place by erasing a two-goal deficit in the second period to make it a 3-3 game thanks to tallies by Craig Conroy and Matthew Lombardi.

And especially in the third period when the Flames were only one shot away from pulling even, but saw the game all but salted away with 13 minutes remaining on the clock, to give Vancouver its fourth victory over the Flames this season in as many tries.

Kiprusoff, whose save percentage and inability to steal victories has been a cause for concern all season, knows the onus is on him to make good on a night the club manages to pump a trio of goals behind Vancouver standout netminder Roberto Luongo.

"I haven't analyzed my game yet. Their first line has played pretty good against us each game. Some bounces went in and a couple of nice goals," he said.

Even though Vancouver had the Flames down 3-1 by the end of the first period thanks to goals by Cochrane kid Mason Raymond, Daniel Sedin and Sami Salo, and pulled ahead with Henrik Sedin's late second-period powerplay goal and sealed it on Taylor Pyatt's goal, the Flames weren't about to throw Kiprusoff under the bus.

"We didn't give him much help," said Daymond Langkow. "Too sloppy in our own end and it cost us. Defensively, we've got to be better. Three goals should be enough to win."

Especially when you look at the players Vancouver was missing.

Not only were the Northwest Division leading Canucks (21-13-4) without Brendan Morrison and Kevin Bieksa, they started without top defenceman Mattias Ohlund (neck) and top checking forward Ryan Kesler (head).

Calgary returns home for a three-game homestand that begins tomorrow night when the Stanley Cup champion Anaheim Ducks come calling.


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