PLAYOFF SERIES: Western Conference quarterfinals; series tied 2-2.
Miikka Kiprusoff seems to have rediscovered his regular-season form.
That doesn’t bode well for the Vancouver Canucks.
Coming off his best performance of the postseason, Kiprusoff and the Calgary Flames hope to take a 3-2 series lead when they face the Canucks in Game 5 of their quarterfinal series.
Kiprusoff stopped 20 shots for his first playoff shutout and Stephane Yelle returned to the lineup with a short-handed goal as Calgary evened the series with a 4-0 victory Tuesday.
Chris Clark and Shean Donovan added second-period goals and Jarome Iginla scored into an empty net for the Flames, who won their first home playoff game since May 15, 1995. Calgary is two victories away from winning a postseason series for the first time since it captured the Stanley Cup in 1989.
Kiprusoff set a modern-day NHL record this season with a 1.69 goals-against average, but was shaky in a 5-3 loss in the series opener, allowing five goals on 22 shots. In the last three games, he has turned aside 68 of 71 shots.
Having Yelle in the lineup for the first time in this series helped Calgary hold Vancouver scoreless on seven power-play opportunities. The Canucks had six power-play goals on 15 chances in the first three games.
“Obviously he’s one of the best penalty killers in the league,” Donovan said of Yelle, who missed the first three games with what is believed to be a hip injury.
Yelle also provides leadership on a very young team. He has played in 112 career playoff games, winning Stanley Cups with the Colorado Avalanche in 1996 and 2001.
“A veteran center who’s been through it and won, and is a good faceoff guy, a good penalty-killer, all those things, he gives you stability,” Flames coach Darryl Sutter said. “Yelle’s absence impacts you big time.”
Simon, tied for the team lead with two goals, has a leg injury, while Lydman has a suspected concussion. Yelle took Simon’s place in the lineup and Mike Commodore made his playoff debut in place of Lydman.
With Dan Cloutier sidelined by a knee injury sustained in Game 3, Johan Hedberg made his first start of the series Tuesday for Vancouver. Hedberg, who stopped 19 of 20 shots in relief in Game 3, wasn’t as sharp in his second appearance, yielding three goals on 31 shots.
“Tonight you can punch holes in our performance in a lot of areas,” Canucks coach Marc Crawford said. “We need to be strong enough to stand and say we weren’t good enough tonight and we weren’t. “It’s disappointing, because it shouldn’t happen at playoff time. But it happened and we need to quickly park it and regroup for the next one.”
Held to three goals in the last three games and 20 shots in Game 4, the Canucks have to find a way to generate more chances against Kiprusoff.
“With 13 shots through two periods, you are not going to win many games,” Vancouver’s Brendan Morrison said. “For whatever reason, we didn’t play good and they played well. The intensity has to pick up. We’ll see what happens next game.”
With star forward Todd Bertuzzi suspended for the playoffs, the Canucks knew they would need contributions from trade-deadline acquisitions Martin Rucinsky and Geoff Sanderson. Rucinsky has one goal and one assist in the series and Sanderson is still looking for his first point.
Defenseman Brent Sopel, fifth on the Canucks with 42 points during the regular season, has no points and is an NHL-worst minus-5 in this series.
The series shifts back to Calgary for Game 6 Saturday.
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Flames - 94 points; 6th seed. Canucks - 101 points; 3rd seed.
PLAYOFF TEAM LEADERS: Flames - Iginla and Simon, 2 goals; Jordan Leopold, 3 assists; four tied with 3 points; Simon, 8 PIM. Canucks - Markus Naslund, 2 goals and 5 points; Naslund, Morrison and Ed Jovanovski, 3 assists, Mattias Ohlund, 11 PIM.
PLAYOFF SPECIAL TEAMS: Flames - Power play: 10.7 percent (3 for 28). Penalty killing: 73.9 percent (17 for 23). Canucks - Power play: 26.1 percent (6 for 23). Penalty killing: 89.3 percent (25 for 28).
GOALTENDERS: Flames - Kiprusoff (2-2, 1 SO, 2.02 GAA); Roman Turek (no appearances). Canucks - Hedberg (1-1, 2.45); Alex Auld (no appearances).