Kipper's smokin'

ERIC FRANCIS -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 2:46 PM ET


 VANCOUVER -- With a third-stringer in their net and Miikka Kiprusoff in their heads, the Vancouver Canucks return to Calgary today on the brink of elimination.

 On the power of a larcenous 32-save performance by Kiprusoff and a goal by Jarome Iginla, the Calgary Flames have a chance to win their first playoff series since 1989 thanks to a 2-1 win at GM Place.

 "I don't know if he's in their heads but he's in our heads," laughed Craig Conroy of a performance that saw Kiprusoff make close to a dozen huge saves.

 "That's half the battle -- you have to feel good about the guy back there and we feel really good. It could easily have been 5-2 for them. He's in there battling away and he's so calm -- not even a smile. I'm like, c'mon, Kipper."

 Make no mistake, Kiprusoff stole this one.

 Taking his cue from a coach who is forever reminding his players they have accomplished nothing yet, even after the game Kiprusoff had little chance to relish his finest performance of the playoffs as his post-game comments were interrupted by a stern reminder the bus was leaving in 10 minutes. So much for savouring the moment.

 "They got more traffic in front and more shots tonight but the guys played great," said Kiprusoff.

 Not necessarily so, said most of his teammates.

 "They got far too many shots on us and we made (Kiprusoff) work way too hard tonight," said Iginla, wearing the green hard hat for unsung hero. "We didn't play as well as the previous game but we worked hard and found a way to win and that's what winners do."

 Iginla's winning goal was one that wouldn't have counted three months earlier as the net was dislodged briefly by a crashing Martin Gelinas. Iginla's brilliant knockdown of an Andrew Ference point shot bounced past surprise starter Alex Auld as the back of the net wobbled, prompting officials to call Toronto for a review of the play.

 Thanks to a rule change that went into effect at the GMs meeting in February, such goals count providing the posts remain anchored.

 "I'm very glad we changed the rule," said Michael Holditch, the Flames rep at the meeting. "We lost a goal earlier in the year before the rule changed and the change was basically unanimous."

 Canucks coach Marc Crawford, who got off easy thanks to Auld's solid play, was OK with the goal, directing nothing but praise towards the officials. Despite having just one period of playoff experience, Auld was given the start over Johan Hedberg and couldn't be faulted the game-winner.

 "Why shouldn't it count -- the posts were in the same spot," asked Denis Gauthier.

 "It was the right call -- it was a bad rule before anyway."

 Earlier in the day, Gauthier had spoken about the importance of "weathering the storm" the first 10 minutes of the game. However, the crowd at GM Place wasn't nearly as pumped up as the first two home games, obviously depressed by their team's 4-0 thrashing in Game 4 in Calgary.

 Although Henrik Sedin got the place jumping again late in the second when he scored his second fluky goal of the playoffs, the team couldn't answer Iginla's goal.

 What followed Iginla's marker five minutes into the third was the storm the Flames predicted from the outset. They notched only two shots on goal in the final frame as Kiprusoff turned aside all 12 challenges he faced.

 "It hasn't been about goaltending in this series, our team just has to play that little bit better," said Crawford.

 He couldn't be more wrong.


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