Flames 3, Thrashers 1
CALGARY, Alberta (AP)
The way Miikka Kiprusoff has been playing, three goals by his teammates was plenty of support.
Olli Jokinen scored in the second period, and Kiprusoff made 24 saves in the Calgary Flames' 3-1 win over the Atlanta Thrashers on Wednesday night.
``He's probably been playing his best hockey in the last month and a half than maybe I've ever seen him play,'' Flames defenseman Robyn Regehr said.
That is lofty praise considering that in six seasons in Calgary Kiprusoff backstopped the Flames' run to the Stanley Cup finals in 2004 and won the Vezina Trophy as the NHL's top goaltender in 2006.
``I think he was disappointed, like the rest of us, on how things have gone here the last couple years,'' Regehr said. ``He was excited about getting here and doing a good job for the guys, and I think he's done exactly that.''
Kiprusoff shrugged off the compliments in typical quiet fashion.
``He's just pumping my tires,'' Kiprusoff said with a grin. ``When the team plays like that, it always makes a goalie's job way easier. You look at tonight, 25 shots against, that's nice, and makes it much easier for me.''
Jarome Iginla had a pair of assists, and Nigel Dawes and Rene Bourque added goals for Calgary (19-8-3).
Since giving up six goals and getting pulled after 40 minutes in a 7-1 home ice loss to Chicago on Nov. 19, Kiprusoff has gone 6-2-1, posted three shutouts, and allowed only 11 goals. He has a 1.22 goals-against average and .957 save percentage during that stretch.
Kiprusoff improved to 17-7-3 this season and is just two wins behind NHL-leading Martin Brodeur from New Jersey.
Perhaps his biggest save of the night came in the second period when he threw out his glove to stab a shot by Ilya Kovalchuk, who sent a shot toward the top corner.
``Kipper made some big saves for us at big times,'' Calgary coach Brent Sutter said.
With a 2-0 lead on second-period goals by Dawes and Jokinen, Calgary looked to be in control until Colby Armstrong wrecked Kiprusoff's shutout bid at 12:27 of the third.
Rich Peverley flung the puck toward the net, and Armstrong had the rebound glance in off his skate as he battled in front with defenseman Aaron Johnson.
The Flames, 7-2-1 in their last 10 games, played at home for the first time since returning from a season-high, six-game road trip in which they went 4-2.
``It's always tough to come back home after a long road trip,'' Jokinen said. ``It's been eight games in the last nine we've been away so it was a big win for our club. We've just got to keep winning.''
Atlanta (15-10-3), which has lost three of four, will finish a four-game road trip Thursday night in Vancouver.
``We just didn't put enough pucks at the net to really test Kiprusoff,'' Atlanta coach John Anderson said. ``Twice we had it right in the slot and decided to try and pass it off. We can't see the whites of the eyes before we shoot.''
Calgary took charge in the second with two goals and a 14-6 edge in shots.
``We're just one of those teams that likes to make the perfect play, and sometimes it's not there,'' Anderson said.
Dawes opened the scoring at 2:09 with his ninth goal, neatly deflecting Johnson's slap shot behind Johan Hedberg as he cruised through the slot.
The Flames made it 2-0 at 14:28 when Iginla set up Jokinen, who overpowered Hedberg with a long slap shot that went in off the goalie's glove.
``They have a lot of good hockey players, they have a good offense, but we played patient hockey,'' Jokinen said. ``After the first period, we played pretty solid hockey those last 40 minutes. We deserved to get the two points.''
Atlanta had been 9-3-1 on the road and had won four of five away from home.
``They've got a really, really good team,'' Hedberg said. ``One of the best goalies in the world, some top notch defenseman, and Iggy and Jokinen up front. They're a tough team to beat.''
NOTES: Regehr (undisclosed injury) returned after missing one game. However, C Craig Conroy (undisclosed), shaken up Monday night in the Flames' 2-1 loss at Los Angeles, was not in the lineup. ... Atlanta rookie LW Evander Kane was a healthy scratch. ... Atlanta's 6-foot-7 defenseman Boris Valabik made his season debut after being out all season with an ankle injury. ... Johnson's assist was his first point with the Flames. ... Calgary has scored first in 23 of 30 games. ... Only the New York Islanders (11) and Colorado (12) have played fewer home games than Calgary (13). ... The Flames, who played 11 of their previous 14 games on the road, began a 12-game stretch lasting into January in which they will play nine times at home.