Flames 3, Lightning 0
-- His name isn't as recognizable as the goaltenders who have led their teams to Stanley Cups in recent seasons, but Miikka Kiprusoff is proving to be every bit as valuable to the Calgary Flames as Martin Brodeur, Dominik Hasek and Patrick Roy were to their championship teams.
In Game 3 of the Stanley Cup finals Saturday, Calgary Captain Jarome Iginla energized the crowd at Pengrowth Saddledome with a first-period fight, and Kiprusoff was brilliant in net the rest of the way for the Flames, who seized control of this series by defeating the Tampa Bay Lightning, 3-0, before a manic crowd of 19,221.
The Flames lead the best-of-seven series 2-1 and host Game 4 Monday.
Calgary's Chris Simon and Iginla scored on power-play goals, Shean Donovan tallied the final goal, and Kiprusoff (21 saves) out-dueled Tampa Bay goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin (15 saves).
Kiprusoff turned the game in favor of the Flames with a pair of sparkling stops in the second period -- the first a glove save on Fredrik Modin's point-blank shot and the other on Brad Richards's short-handed breakaway -- to record his postseason-best fifth shutout.
"That helps your team when you can make saves like that," Kiprusoff said. "When you make saves like that at your end, it creates chances for your team at the other end. That's what happened tonight."
Calgary Coach Darryl Sutter said: "It was like a 30-second game. Kiprusoff [stopped] Richards on the breakaway. We come right back and score. That's the hockey game."
Kiprusoff, who began the season as San Jose's No. 3 goaltender before coming to Calgary in a November trade, set a modern era record for goals against average with a 1.69 during the regular season. The 27-year-old Fin is also a nominee for the Vezina Trophy, the award given to the league's top netminder.
"We had to get a goalie, and there wasn't anything available except 8 million dollar ones," Sutter said of acquiring Kiprusoff for a conditional draft choice.
Meantime, Lightning winger Martin St. Louis said on Friday: "To win. . . you have to hate them [opponents]."
Well, the feeling is obviously mutual.
The physical play and nastiness that ruled Game 2 carried over into Saturday. The teams exchanged two games worth of open-ice hip checks and crushing body blows along the boards.
And although the Stanley Cup final rarely offers much fighting -- the stakes are too high -- the Flames and Lightning continued to shrug off playoff protocol. Vincent Lecavalier and Iginla, two of the game's skilled forwards, dropped their gloves six minutes into the game. Iginla quickly gained the upper hand, setting the tone for Calgary.
"That fight was huge," said Simon, who in the second period was promoted to the top line where he played alongside Marcus Nilson and Iginla. "It really set the tone for us physically. We talked about that before the game."
The teams mustered a combined seven shots on goal in the scoreless first period, five of them belonging to the Lightning. But the game's tenor changed drastically in the second period.
Modin got the game's first real scoring chance early in the second, when a Flames turnover led to a mini-breakaway. But Modin, who had two full seconds to pick his spot, fired high to Kiprusoff's glove side. The Calgary goalie managed to get the tip of his glove on the puck, deflecting it high off the glass.
Moments later, Kiprusoff foiled Richards on a clean breakaway with a brilliant blocker save. That save in particular signaled a shift in the game's momentum.
And the Flames didn't need long to cash in.
On the power play, Simon tapped in his own rebound at 13 minutes 53 seconds of the second period to put the Flames ahead 1-0. The play began with Lightning defenseman Darryl Sydor falling down in the neutral zone, creating a five on three. Iginla skated the puck deep in the zone, then backhanded to Simon in the slot.
Donovan's goal about four minutes later staked Calgary to a 2-0 lead.
Late in the third, Iginla tapped in a cross ice pass from defenseman Robyn Regehr to provide the final margin, again with the man advantage.
"The reason we are here is because of Kipper," Donovan said. "He does what he does every day: He gives us a chance. He was great again tonight. He's the best goalie in the league."