Flames lose -- yet again

Miikka Kiprusoff takes a breather after the Blackhawks scored what would end up being the winning...

Miikka Kiprusoff takes a breather after the Blackhawks scored what would end up being the winning goal. (QMI Agency/Stuart Dryden)

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:40 AM ET

As far as statement games go, the Calgary Flames may want to try a rewrite.

On the surface, last night's 3-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks may seem like a respectable result for the struggling squad, but it was an effort masked over by their masked man.

Most importantly, it ends up the sixth straight loss for a Flames team that’s sinking out of a playoff perch.

Sure, it wasn’t as bad of a stinker as the 9-1 debacle Monday in San Jose, but a big reason it didn’t become a beatdown of similar proportion was the play of goalkeeper Miikka Kiprusoff.

From the drop of the puck, the netminder — who was pulled after allowing six goals in the first two periods of the Sharks defeat — was sharp. If he hadn’t, Kiprusoff would have experienced the same fate.

Through the scoreless first period, Kiprusoff made as many big saves — five — as his team had shots.

Don’t believe it? Here they are.

He stopped Patrick Kane on a penalty shot, made key point-blank stops on Andrew Ladd and Tomas Kopecky in the middle portion of the period and then denied Jonathan Toews on a golden wraparound attempt before stoning John Madden on a rebound in the dying seconds.

Kiprusoff continued to astound the sellout Saddledome crowd of 19,289 in the second period.

In the early going of the middle frame, he again robbed Madden and then made an incredible toe save on Marian Hossa.

But the Blackhawks, one of the league’s most potent teams, eventually broke through Kiprusoff’s wall.

Just before the game’s midway point, Kane lit the lamp on a powerplay.

Jonathan Toews stole the puck from Cory Sarich and immediately fired a backhand pass across the ice to Kane at the far side of the net.

The one-timer was on the mark.

At least the Flames didn’t pack it in like they did in Silicon Valley.

In fact, their anemic powerplay came through late in the middle period to draw the game even.

Dion Phaneuf’s one-timer was partially blocked by Blackhawks netminder Antti Niemi, but Jamie Lundmark was on the spot for the easy tap-in.

It’s Lundmark’s fourth goal in 14 NHL games this season.

But Ben Eager dealt the fatal blow six minutes into the third period.

Eager was going to the net as Tomas Kopecky shot towards the cage. The puck bounced off his leg and, instead of going wide, went into the cage.

Calgary did come close to the equalizer, but Craig Conroy rang a golden chance off the post.

Soon-to-be Canadian Olympian Duncan Keith rounded out the scoring with an empty netter, which followed by the fans booing their team off the ice.

Kiprusoff finished the night with 25 saves for Calgary (26-19-6).

Niemi stopped 19 shots for the Blackhawks (35-12-4).

The loss came with a double shot of disappointment.

Winger Nigel Dawes, who has 10 goals on the season, left the game early in the first period after being hit by Toews and didn’t return.

Up next for Calgary is Monday’s home game against the St. Louis Blues.

randy.sportak@sunmedia.ca


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