SUN Hockey Pool

Don't blame Kipper

Flames netminder Miikka Kiprusoff makes a blocker save last night against the Coyotes. (QMI...

Flames netminder Miikka Kiprusoff makes a blocker save last night against the Coyotes. (QMI Agency/Paul Connors)

RANDY SPORTAK, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:22 AM ET

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Miikka Kiprusoff had been the picture of perfection through his first two games of the Calgary Flames' longest road trip of the season.

He needed to deliver even more shutout netminding for them to continue their winning ways.

Coming off goose-eggs in Detroit and Nashville, he was again outstanding between the pipes, but it wasn't enough in last night's 2-1 loss to the Phoenix Coyotes.

"Bottom line is he was our best player, and we never had anybody else that played close to him," said Flames coach Brent Sutter of his netminder. "He played well for us and gave us a chance."

The Flames saw their four-game winning streak and a franchise-best run of 10 straight road games with at least a point come to a halt in the loss that drops their record to 17-7-3.

The Flames were due for a dud, but even through a dreadful opening period, they came out ahead because of their netminder's work in the opening 20 minutes -- 15 saves -- and a David Moss goal with only one second remaining on the clock.

However, Petr Prucha pulled the hosts even just before the game's midway point, and Taylor Pyatt scored the winner with less than four minutes remaining before the announced crowd of 9,868 at the Jobing.com Arena in Glendale, Ariz.

Prucha's goal snapped Kiprusoff's shutout streak at 159 minutes and 10 seconds.

"Our work ethic was fine, but we didn't work smart. We made too many mistakes and were sloppy with the puck," Sutter said. "Give Phoenix full marks. They played a solid game and played well.

"We didn't play well enough to get a win. It was right there for us even though we weren't sharp, but we found a way to lose the game."

Pyatt's winner was a perfect example of what bothered the bench boss.

After the Flames turned over the puck in the offensive zone, they didn't make it tough enough for the Coyotes to gain momentum in the neutral zone before Pyatt eluded defenceman Mark Giordano on a one-on-one play and snapped home a shot.

There were more breakdowns on that sequence than you see on Calgary's roads during a cold snap.

"A goal like that should never get scored against you," Sutter said. "It starts in the offensive zone, we weren't on top of pucks, and then someone gets beat one-on-one. In the last four minutes of a hockey game, you've got to be better and stronger than that."

For his part, Giordano took his share of the blame.

"I can't let him get a shot off at that point," he said.

"We should have got points. That's what's frustrating. Tied 1-1 on the road with under five minutes to go, you'd like to get at least one point. We were in a good spot to win the game, but that was one of those plays."

Although Kiprusoff takes a rare loss between the pipes, he didn't deserve any blame after a 29-save performance, and his teammates knew it.

"We're upset to waste an effort like that from him. It's a disappointing night, but now we'll have to regroup," said Craig Conroy. "That wasn't our best game, but we'll be better. We'll bounce back and have our best game against San Jose (tomorrow night)."

Ilya Bryzgalov stopped 28 shots for Phoenix (16-11-1).

RANDY.SPORTAK@SUNMEDIA.CA


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