CALGARY - First instinct says any night goalie Miikka Kiprusoff is off his game means disaster for the Calgary Flames.
But that wasn’t the case Tuesday night because Carey Price and the Montreal Canadiens kept giving the Flames the breaks they needed to claim a key 5-4 victory at the Saddledome.
Kiprusoff had one glaring miscue and a couple of other unlucky goals, but the Flames took advantage of the ineptitude of the NHL’s Eastern Conference cellar-dwelling Canadiens to snap a five-game home-ice losing skid and keep themselves in the playoff picture. They are two points back of eighth place in the Western Conference standings.
“We’re going through a tough stretch, and sometimes when it goes like that, you just need that one to get over the hump,” said Flames captain Jarome Iginla, who scored twice. “It’s not pretty, but it’s still an important win for us.”
Ultimately, the Flames should send a note to thank Price.
The Montreal netminder is one of the best in the NHL, but he served up the game-winner seven minutes into the third period by playing a puck from behind his own net right onto the stick of Flames winger Curtis Glencross.
Glencross, the club’s hottest player right now, made no mistake with the wide-open net and tallied for the fifth straight game to make it a 5-2 affair before the Dome sellout crowd of 19,289 fans.
“I just got it and shot it — I didn’t want to waste any time,” said Glencross, who also netted a pair of assists. “It was a pass where he put it right on my tape, so I was lucky enough to be able to shoot it right away.”
For a goal like that to be the difference is apropos, since neither netminder delivered in what should have been a goalie’s battle.
Kiprusoff flubbed Max Pacioretty’s sharp-angled shot at the midway point, and the hosts saw what was 2-0 lead become a tie game. Then, Kipper was victimized by a couple of goofy goals seemingly immediately after the Glencross goal to make it a nailbiter of a finish.
The Habs’ Lars Eller started a comeback when he shot a puck while on his knees in the slot, and it somehow went through a couple of sets of legs and under the prone netminder. A few minutes later, Pacioretty banked a shot off Kiprusoff’s stick while the netminder was down on the ice amidst a wild scramble.
Fortunately for Kiprusoff, his teammates came through with enough offence to make those goals a distant memory.
“The (second) goal (by the Habs) — that’s one in a million on him,” Iginla said. “It’s nice to give him some relief offensively. Every game we’re in lately, we’ve been stuck at two goals or going to a shootout. It was nice to put some more in for him and give him some breathing room.
“I can’t think of a goalie who’s been better for a team than he’s been for ours.”
The Flames (30-25-12) also received goals from David Moss, whose first-period tally made it nine straight games in which they’ve scored first, and Mark Giordano, who broke open the 2-2 deadlock just a few minutes after Kiprusoff’s big gaffe.
“That was a battle — there was nothing easy about that game,” said Flames head coach Brent Sutter. “When you’re up 5-2, you don’t want to be letting them back in the game, and that’s something we have to improve on. But the guys played hard — they competed. The will was there, and that’s what I wanted from them.”
Tomas Plekanec also scored for the Canadiens (25-32-10).
The win did come with a price for the Flames. Tim Jackman left after suffering an undisclosed injury in the opening minutes and didn’t return. Sutter said it’s unlikely he’ll be able to play Friday when the Winnipeg Jets come calling.
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