Breaking Through The Wall: Calgary Flames Rise Above .500

Miikka Kiprusoff Flames
Miikka Kiprusoff returned to Calgary’s line-up in a win over the Sharks on Wednesday night. (Icon SMI)

Six times this season, the Calgary Flames have had the opportunity to creep above the .500 mark in the National Hockey League’s standings. After posting a 0-4-1 record in their previous five attempts, the Flames broke through the proverbial wall with an impressive 4-1 victory over the San Jose Sharks at the Scotiabank Saddledome.

Flames netminder Miikka Kiprusoff was in net for the first time since suffering an MCL injury on February 5 in Detroit. Kiprusoff made 32 saves for his third win of the season and his 300th victory as a member of the Flames.

“It was nice to come back with a win,” said Kiprusoff after the game. “Because the other goalies played so well here, I had time to get really ready for this. They didn’t want to push me and take a chance I’d get hurt again, and, yeah, today I felt ready.”

The Flames were without Kiprusoff for 13 games and posted a 6-5-2 record in his absence. While goaltenders Leland Irving, Danny Taylor and Joey MacDonald split the netminding duties in his absence, the Calgary crease has been the property of Kiprusoff for nearly a decade and the Flames line-up matched his enthusiasm with one of their most consistent 60-minute efforts of the season. The win pushes the team’s record to 9-8-4 and puts the team just two points outside of the Western Conference playoff picture.

“I thought that it was solid from the get-go,” said Flames head coach Bob Hartley of his goaltender’s performance. “He was seeing all the pucks and that’s such a good feeling for guys on the bench, for coaches, for probably fans. He was finding pucks all over the place. Right from the get-go, I knew that he was on his game, that he would be tough to beat and it took a perfect play to beat him.”

Outside of a second period goal by Joe Thornton on a Mark Giordano defensive zone giveaway, the Flames were in the driver’s seat for much of the proceedings against a Sharks club that played the night before in Vancouver. Roman Cervenka, Blake Comeau, Jarome Iginla and Curtis Glencross scored for the Flames.

Iginla had a pair of points on the evening and pushed his career points total to 1,091 (59th all-time) and his career goals total to 523, moving past Pat Verbeek into sole possession of 33rd place all-time and just one goal behind the great Bryan Trottier.

The Flames now hit the road for three games in sunny California against some tough competition. They play the Anaheim Ducks (16-3-3) on Friday at the Honda Center, where the Flames have not won since January 14, 2004 – two lockouts ago. Following that game, they cross Southern California to visit the defending Stanley Cup Champions, the Los Angeles Kings (12-7-2) for games on Saturday and Monday.

Calgary’s placement in the Western Conference playoff picture will likely be much clearer by the time the Flames return home next Wednesday to host the Detroit Red Wings.