The puck stops here

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 1:00 PM ET


 The last time Andrew Ference saw this much commotion, it was over a Moose.

 Playing for the Penguins.

 During Pittsburgh's unlikely playoff run of 2001, netminder Johan Hedberg -- acquired by the Penguins at the NHL trade deadline in what everyone figured to be a minor swap -- became a cult hero in the Steel City.

 Coming from the San Jose Sharks via the Manitoba Moose, Hedberg backstopped the Pens to the conference final.

 "I just haven't seen 15,000 moose antlers in Calgary," Ference chuckled.

 "Remember that? Everyone in the arena was wearing them. Man, that was funny."

 Ference believes Flames teammate Miikka Kiprusoff is capable of duplicating the feat his former roommate performed.

 "They're both extremely talented goaltenders who finally got a shot and they're both from San Jose, too. Their goaltending scout should get a raise," Ference said.

 "They're both so talented, it's not just a matter of them becoming good.

 "They were always good. They were finally put in a role to play every night and some guys take hold of that."

 In Kiprusoff's case, it's with an iron fist.

 When the Flames acquired him in mid-November, Kiprusoff wasn't just getting a chance. He was getting paroled.

 Kiprusoff wasn't going to get a chance in the Bay Area.

 The Sharks made their decision Evgeni Nabokov was the starter, Vesa Toskala No. 2 and Kiprusoff expendable.

 San Jose isn't regretting that decision but the Flames are sure thankful about the turn of events.

 As for Kiprusoff, he's trying to take it all in stride.

 "I didn't think too much about any goals. I was happy to come to Calgary and have a chance to play," he said.

 He has made the most of it, too, and has become a legitimate Hart and Vezina Trophy candidate.

 When Kiprusoff joined the Flames fold, the team was a couple of games below the magic .500 mark.

 A modern-day record 1.69 goals-against average and league-best .933 save percentage was part of Kiprusoff's impressive 24-10-4 record.

 Of his 38 games, Kiprusoff allowed more than two goals on only six occasions.

 Throw up numbers like that and you instil a ton of confidence in your teammates.

 "It's not that you let up defensively -- we're not a team that will sacrifice defensive play because we feel our goaltender will bail us out every time -- but I think it's the mindset that in a tight game, he hasn't let us down, as far as letting in a soft goal," Ference said.

 "Just look at the other night (the win over Phoenix). He made a couple of key, huge saves that wouldn't have been bad goals but the fact he made them changed the momentum of the game."

 Kiprusoff, an unassuming sort, just takes all the kudos in stride.

 Sure, he loves the fact he's made the most of his opportunity. He loves being loved.

 However, as the first Finnish goalie to win an NHL playoff game -- earning the 'W' by making 39 saves for San Jose against St. Louis on April 17, 2001 -- he's moved on to a new quest.

 That would be to win at least four more.

 "You reach one goal and now we're starting a new season," he said.

 "That's why I came here five years ago. I wanted to play in the NHL.

 "It was our first goal to make the playoffs and now we have to concentrate on the first round and try to win it."


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