SUN Hockey Pool

Penalty kill Kips 'em at bay

RANDY SPORTAK, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:53 AM ET

Miikka Kiprusoff's reaction when he looked up at the scoreboard was understandable.

Disbelief and astonishment.

Yet, there it was up in lights, a nine-minute powerplay for the visiting Washington Capitals midway through the first period, and the Flames were already down a goal.

"I was hoping it was wrong," said the Calgary goalie. "I didn't believe it at first."

The Flames killed off the penalties handed to Rene Bourque, then rode the momentum all the way to last night's 2-1 victory over the high-flying Capitals.

Could it be a win that turns around their poor early-season fortunes?

Kiprusoff believes so.

"Our strongest game from start to finish," he stated. "It was my strongest game, and I just have to keep it up.

"I think it's giving confidence in our team. It was a great offensive team and we were able to play a pretty good defensive game."

True, the Capitals are a great offensive team. Alexander Ovechkin lights up the marquee, but it's a group with all kinds of talent. It's why Washington entered the night tied for top spot in the league in goals scored per game.

Kiprusoff, with a big hand from his teammates, ended up taking the first-star curtain call, thanks in big part to the job done during that shorthanded stint.

Bourque was flagged a total of 19 minutes -- a five-minute major for fighting, minors for instigating and unsportsmanlike conduct because he had a visor on while picking a scrap, plus a 10-minute misconduct -- for exacting a pound of flesh from Tyler Sloan after the Calgary product and Washington defenceman flattened Daymond Langkow with a great open-ice hit.

The Flames only had to kill seven minutes because Michael Nylander took a holding penalty in the middle of it all, but did a masterful job.

Washington managed only three shots during that long stretch with the man-advantage, and Kiprusoff was there to hold the fort, giving the Saddledome's sellout crowd of 19,289 reason to roar.

"I would go out on a limb and say if you can kill a nine-minute penalty every night, you've got a good chance of winning," said Michael Cammalleri with a grin before he turned to discuss Kiprusoff's 30-save performance.

"It's the NHL, you're playing against Ovechkin, (Nicklas) Backstrom, (Alexander) Semin, (Sergei) Fedorov, Nylander, and they're going to get shots. We're gonna do everything we can to limit their chances, not give the Grade-A scoring chances, but they're going to get pucks on the net.

"For him to come up the way he did is great. It's what we need."

Buoyed by the kill, the Flames received early second-period goals from captain Jarome Iginla and Matthew Lombardi to improve their record to 2-3-1.

Now, to see if the Flames can build on the victory.

"A very big win," Iginla said. "We know where the standings are. It's early, but everybody was aware of how we had to buckle down defensively, we're playing such an offensive team on the other side, and we need to starting building some momentum.

"That feels good. There's a lot of things as a team to feel good about."

Ovechkin's contributions added up to a handful of hard checks, four shots on goal and an assist on Fedorov's first-period tally.

"Our big mistake was we tried to play too fancy," said the reigning league MVP and scoring champ. "We just didn't play well. We tried to create some crazy moments of beautiful hockey, but we just have to play simple and do our thing."

Jose Theodore finished the clash with 26 saves in a strong performance of his own for Washington (3-2-1).

Calgary now embarks on a two-game road trip that starts tomorrow in Nashville and then heads to Phoenix.


Videos

Photos