PLAYOFF SERIES: Western Conference finals; Flames lead 1-0.
After the opening game, it looks like Calgary’s opponent in the series may be providing even more incentive for the Flames goaltender.
Kiprusoff looks to drop his former team into an 0-2 hole as the Flames take on the San Jose Sharks at HP Pavilion.
The 27-year-old Kiprusoff backed up San Jose’s Evgeni Nabokov for three seasons before being traded to Calgary on Nov. 16 for a second-round draft pick in 2005. That deal has proved to be a steal for the Flames, who now boast one of the hottest goalies in the NHL playoffs.
Kiprusoff turned away 49 shots, including all 18 he faced in the first period, as Calgary jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the series with a 4-3 overtime victory Sunday.
Kiprusoff’s stellar play kept the Flames from being blown out early, as the Flames were actually able to escape the first period with a 2-0 lead, and defenseman Steve Montador scored 18:43 into the extra period as Calgary continued its stunning playoff run.
“It’s fun to be here against (the Sharks), but I don’t think it makes any difference,” said Kiprusoff, who had his scoreless streak of nearly 170 minutes ended Sunday. “It’s the (conference) finals. That’s enough.”
The Flames goalie allowed Alex Korolyuk’s tying goal with 3:21 left that forced overtime. Kiprusoff, though, made five saves in the extra period.
“We certainly wouldn’t have been in overtime without Miikka’s play,” Montador said. “In the first period they were coming at us. They got some chances, he kept us in (the game) and turned the momentum back to our way.”
Calgary followed its second-round upset of Detroit, which included two overtime wins, by stealing home-ice advantage from the Sharks in the opener of the Flames’ first trip to the conference finals since 1989. Calgary is three wins away from returning to the Stanley Cup finals for the first time since that year, when it won its only championship.
Getting those three victories will likely depend on whether Kiprusoff can maintain his high level of play. San Jose mostly outplayed Calgary in Game 1, it just couldn’t get enough pucks past the Flames goalie.
“I thought we carried the play most of the night,” Sharks defenseman Scott Hannan said. “Kipper kept them in the game. … We had a couple of mistakes, turnovers at the blue line. That’s what those guys take advantage of.”
San Jose will look to cut down on those mistakes, one of which cost them the game. Montador’s goal was the result of a slow Sharks line change.
The Sharks, though, know they can’t do much more than they did in the opener. In addition to firing away at Kiprusoff, they held Flames star Jarome Iginla without a shot in regulation. Iginla, however, did set up Montador for the winning goal.
“We’ve got more where that came from,” San Jose coach Ron Wilson said. “It’s disappointing to lose the game the way we did, on kind of a detail thing, a bad change. … With 52 shots, I think we could have had 62 shots. We’ll play the same way the next game, take our chances.”
Mike Ricci and Todd Harvey scored in the second period for the Sharks, who have lost two straight home playoff games after winning their first five en route to the franchise’s first trip to the conference finals. San Jose dropped its third straight overtime contest.
Veteran left wing Scott Thornton returned to the Sharks lineup after missing five of the last seven playoff games with an undisclosed injury. The Flames also got a rugged forward back in their lineup, as Chris Simon played Sunday after missing 10 games with an injury.
The series shifts to the Pengrowth Saddledome for Game 3 on Thursday night.
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Flames - 6th seed; beat Vancouver Canucks 4-3, quarterfinals; beat Detroit Red Wings 4-2, semifinals. Sharks - 2nd seed; beat St. Louis Blues 4-1, quarterfinals; beat Colorado Avalanche 4-2, semifinals.
PLAYOFF TEAM LEADERS: Flames - Iginla, 6 goals and 13 points; Conroy and Iginla, 7 assists; Ville Niemenen, 29 PIM. Sharks - Patrick Marleau, 7 goals; Niko Dimitrakos, 8 assists; Vincent Damphousse, 11 points; Hannan, 18 PIM.
PLAYOFF SPECIAL TEAMS: Flames - Power play: 11.1 percent (7 for 63). Penalty killing: 83.3 percent (55 for 66). Sharks - Power play: 13.3 percent (8 for 60). Penalty killing: 92.2 percent (47 for 51).