SUN Hockey Pool

Stunning saves second nature for Kipper

ERIC FRANCIS, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:24 AM ET

Never mind it being the save of the game.

It may just go down as the save of the year.

Not just because of its spectacular nature, but because of the timing.

In the midst of an emotional affair with the Montreal Canadiens and their legion of vociferous followers, the Flames clung to a 3-2 lead last night while killing off a penalty late in the second frame.

After going almost 15 minutes without facing a single shot, Miikka Kiprusoff was called on to make a save so spectacular the row of Montreal scribes jaded by the brilliance of Patrick Roy, Ken Dryden and the like, could be heard voicing their disbelief through the roar of the crowd.

Andrei Markov's brilliant vision set the stage for the masterpiece when he made a cross-ice pass from one faceoff dot to the other where Andrei Kostitsyn one-timed a shot labelled top shelf, short side. Stacking the pads as he made a desperate slide across the crease, the flailing Finn somehow managed to get a piece of his glove on the blast to preserve the lead.

No sooner had the Sea of Red, Blanc et Bleu plopped back down in their seats did Eric Nystrom make a world class move of his own to spring Dustin Boyd on a shorthanded breakaway that would put the hosts up 4-2.

After 15 minutes of inactivity, one dazzling save not only prevented the game from being tied but set the stage for an insurance marker 30 seconds later that ended the Flames' four-game losing streak.

"That's old school -- you don't see those anymore," chuckled Kiprusoff, who turned aside 22 shots in the 6-2 spanking.

"I was just desperate, trying to throw something there and hope. I was lucky enough it hit me."

Those who've seen the world-class goalie flash his magic the last four years know luck had little to do with it.

"Honestly, on the bench, I probably said 'Holy beep beep beep -- what a save' four times," said a wide-eyed Mike Cammalleri of the clear turning point of the evening.

"That glove save was probably one of the best saves you're going to see in a long time. Even the ones he makes look easy are so underrated."

Boyd, who has seen Kiprusoff's mastery for parts of three seasons, took the save a little more in stride, shrugging, "just another day for him."

And because of it -- combined with a gritty effort from his teammates who peppered Jaroslav Halak with 41 shots -- the hard-luck hosts finally got to exhale before embarking on another tough two-game roadie out west. Meanwhile, the Habs finished the night reeling so bad they staged a 32-minute players-only meeting after the buzzer.

"What helped me was we were pushing so hard that I knew we'd get some chances," said Kiprusoff, who admitted it "can be a challenge" staying sharp when your team closes the door on all shots for 15 minutes.

While a save like that goes a long way towards convincing eastern writers Kiprusoff truly is in the midst of a Vezina-type season (despite a bloated GAA), it goes even further to show how critical one stop can be. It's the type of save the league-leading, 31-game winner has made so many times this year as he chases the NHL record of 48 victories. And last night he got plenty of help from his mates as they sacrificed plenty to block 10 shots, including a save five minutes in by Dion Phaneuf that saw the defenceman turn back a Chris Higgins rebound attempt otherwise bound for the open net.

"He makes a lot of saves for my mess-ups, too, so anytime I can get in the way of the puck I will," said Phaneuf.

"He made some big momentum saves that really kept us in the game. He does that night in and night out but that one sliding across allowed us to keep momentum."

And, more importantly, breathe again.


Videos

Photos