SUN Hockey Pool

Flame have belief in the thief

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:35 PM ET

PHILADELPHIA — It’s not that Miikka Kiprusoff has been wearing goat horns and losing games for the Calgary Flames.

What Kiprusoff hasn’t been doing of late, though, is winning games.

Yes, that’s obvious by the fact the Flames went into Friday afternoon’s clash with the Philadelphia Flyers with just two victories in their last dozen outings.

But we’re not just talking about those ordinary wins Kiprusoff and every other NHL-calibre goalie can come up with over the course of a season. We’re talking about those victories which come with a bit of larceny.

You know the type.

It could be a Kipper special — a 2-1 victory when he’s been darn near unbeatable.

Mainly, though, it’s one of those affairs in which the other team has been all over the Flames from start to finish, but it’s Calgary which celebrates at the final buzzer.

Frankly, the Flames have been clamouring for some of those since their struggles began nearly a month ago, and the goalie delivered in fine style during the 3-2 shootout victory over a Flyers squad which entered the day’s action tied for top spot in the NHL.

“We’re all in the same boat, and I’m sure it’s the same for him. We’ve all been working extremely hard, all been in the same situation when we’re not getting rewarded. I know he wants to win,” said left winger Alex Tanguay. “Confidence is a funny thing. Sometimes, that one game can boost our confidence, for all of us and for him.

“We’re certainly going to need him to achieve what we want to do. He was very solid.”

Solid would be understating it. As strong as the Flames were against the Flyers, the unflappable masked Finn was nearly brilliant, especially when his team needed it most, in a 34-save outing.

There were solid saves from the drop of the puck, while the confident Flyers were buzzing around the Flames zone.

There were some key stops when his team was shorthanded through a big chunk of the second period.

There was a third-period game-saver against Daniel Briere, who fired a sharp-angled puck that fans believed had gone in, but actually only rolled along the line before Kiprusoff scooped it up.

There were shootout stops against Daniel Briere and Mike Richards, slamming the door after Claude Giroux put the hosts on the board first in the skills competition.

Not to mention the highlight reel stop of them all late in overtime, when Kimmo Timonen figured he had an open net but was stunned by Kipusoff’s ability to dive back and knock the puck out of the air with his stick.

Sure, it’s a desperation save, but it’s also a case of a goalie giving his all and quick enough to do it.

“Their guy had quite a bit of time, (Andreas) Nodl, so I had to challenge him because he can score from there,” Kiprusoff said “He saw Timonen wide open, and I think he saw an empty net and took his time, play safe a little bit, and I was able to throw (out) my stick.

“Lucky save, but sometimes, you have to make those to get two points.”

Especially since it’s a team desperate for their known game-saver to come through and turn their fortunes. They’ll need more of those soon enough.

randy.sportak@sunmedia.ca

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