CALGARY, Alberta (AP)—Curtis Joseph’s 93rd career postseason victory was unlike any before.
The 40-year-old backup goaltender, playing his first postseason game in four years, came off the bench to lead Calgary to a come-from-behind 4-3 victory over the San Jose Sharks on Sunday night in Game 3 of their playoff series. The Flames lead 2-1.
“No matter how many years you play, it’s always something new and exciting. It’s sports, you never know what may happen,” said Joseph on Monday. “It was something I’d never experienced before”.
Joseph was brought in as an insurance policy to Miikka Kiprusoff in January. On Sunday, it paid off.
Kiprusoff was pulled after giving up three goals on five shots in the first 3:33. Joseph blanked the Stars, making 22 saves and allowing the Flames to storm back from a 3-0 deficit.
Joseph is fifth in career NHL postseason wins.
“I’ve been in the playoffs long enough to go through scenarios, but I’ve never been through that before,” coach Mike Keenan said. “I can’t recall being down by that deficit and coming back to win”.
But the Flames did exactly that, thanks in no small part to Joseph’s clutch performance. He was the game’s first star and provided a huge lift to a team that had a terrible start to its first home playoff game.
“It’s not easy to go in and he came in and played unreal. It was huge what (Joseph) did for us,” Kiprusoff said. “I did thank Cujo after the game. It’s tough to give up three goals like that, but we got a huge win.”
The relationship between Joseph and Kiprusoff has worked well in a short period of time. They had worked together only nine weeks before the playoffs began, but each suggests they see the game the same way.
“Miikka is easy to talk to and not a head case at all. We get along really well and he is good to talk to,” said Joseph, who became the first NHL goaltender to win a playoff game for five different teams. “I know my role and certainly am happy with it.”
With the grind of the postseason, having a legitimate No. 2 with experience was a key reason Keenan reached out to his former goaltender in the winter. The two were together in St. Louis briefly.
“If you want to go deep in the playoffs, you need two goaltenders,” Keenan said.
“We’re talking 25-26 games in 50 or 55 nights. In this case, you get a veteran, experienced goaltender. He helps our locker room a big deal.”
For the second consecutive day Keenan did not announce his starter for Game 4, even joking Curtis McElhinney a prospect with the team’s AHL farm club in Quad Cities would get the nod.
But Kiprusoff will no doubt go, and if history is any indication, the 2006 Vezina trophy winner will respond in a bounce back game.
“For me it’s a new game and a new start,” he said. “It is a big game and I’m ready.”
Whether the Sharks will be after such a deflating loss remains to be seen. After Game 3, San Jose goaltender Evgeni Nabokov said “we need to stop playing like boys and have to play like men,” suggesting his team could not get pushed around if they wanted to win the series.”
But defenseman Craig Rivet refuses to believe Sunday’s meltdown will lead to the same spring trend of early Sharks exits, which has become the norm the last four years.
“Honestly, I believe this is going to make our team stronger,” Rivet said. “That was a great eye opener. We feel we’re the better team and we can’t keep dwelling or wondering what could have been. We are looking to Game 4 and redeeming ourselves.”