Flames 3, Ducks 1
Miikka Kiprusoff still hasn't decided if he'll retire at the end of the season. If the Calgary Flames goaltender does call it a career, he went out in front of his home crowd with a vintage performance Friday night.
Kiprusoff resembled the goalie who led the Flames to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2004, making 32 saves in a 3-1 victory over the playoff-bound Anaheim Ducks.
''It's been a pretty rough season but even with that, I'm going to take my time,'' Kiprusoff said when asked about retiring. ''I've been doing this for a living for a long time. Even before I came over here, I played in Europe. It's been my life and nothing else. It takes lots from me.''
Kiprusoff's contract pays him $5 million this season, but that will drop $1.5 million in 2014, the final year of an extension he signed in 2007. There has been rampant speculation that the 36-year-old will instead retire at the end of this season.
At the trade deadline, the Toronto Maple Leafs pursued a trade for Kiprusoff, and after getting permission to talk with him, the goalie cited family reasons for not waiving his no-trade clause.
If this is it for Kiprusoff, the fans gave him quite a send-off.
After Corey Perry spoiled Kiprusoff's bid for his 45th career shutout with 3:41 left, the Ducks' sniper almost tied it ninety seconds later, only to have Kiprusoff sprawl and get the paddle of his stick down to deny the goal.
The sell-out crowd of 19,289 broke into chants of ''Kipper, Kipper.'' Then, when they showed Kiprusoff on the video boards seconds later, the fans rose to their feet and remained standing, chanting his name, right through the end of the game.
With the game puck in his glove, Kiprusoff saluted the crowd after the final buzzer, waving of his stick at center ice.
''It's all you can ask as a player, it's an unbelievable feeling,'' said Kiprusoff, who is 23rd on the NHL's all-time wins list with 319. ''This crowd, it seems like they've been behind me every game since I came here.''
The win follows a spectacular 36-save performance Wednesday in Calgary's 3-2 win over Detroit.
''That's the player, right there, that you saw tonight, that the people of this city fell in love with for so many years and he provided his teammates and his organization with that play on a consistent basis for so long,'' said Mike Cammalleri, who had two assists. ''It's up to him, it's his decision and what he wants to do with his life but if it is his last games, then completely fitting. He was awesome.''
Roman Horak and Brian McGrattan each scored and Roman Cervenka added an empty-net goal for the Flames, who close with a four-game road trip beginning Sunday in Minnesota.
Calgary will miss the playoffs for a fourth season in a row. The Flames, since moving to Calgary, are the only NHL team that has never had a top five draft pick. With four wins in their last five games, it may not happen this year either with Calgary currently 25th overall in the league.
Anaheim is winless in its last four games but still leads the Pacific Division by five points over Los Angeles and San Jose.
''We're certainly not going to (win the division, finish second in the West) playing the way we did the first two periods,'' said Duck coach Bruce Boudreau said. ''I couldn't have cared less if we were playing a midget team or the Russian national team. We needed the win and that should have been motivation enough.''
The Sharks, Ducks and Kings all have four games remaining.
''There's a lot of disappointment, we just haven't played up to our level for a long stretch now,'' said Anaheim's Sheldon Souray. There's really no excuses, we just haven't played well. The good thing is we control our own fate, but we've been saying that for a while now. There has to be a sense of urgency and a sense of we have to work hard to get it done.''
The key goal came from an unlikely source when McGrattan made it 2-0 on a great individual effort 3:14 into the third period. The rugged winger tipped the puck through the skates of Francois Beauchemin and got loose down the wing, taking the puck to the net and slipping a backhand through the pads of Jonas Hiller.
It was the third goal of the year for McGrattan in just 19 games. He entered the season with three career goals in 212 games.
''Anytime you're a checker, grinder, fourth line role, it's always nice to be able to chip in here and there,'' McGrattan said.
Horak put the Flames in front 2:45 into the second period.
Notes: Calgary D Dennis Wideman (finger) and LW Steve Begin (upper body) did not play. ... Out of the lineup for Anaheim were RW Teemu Selanne (upper body) and G Viktor Fasth (upper body). ... It was Kiprusoff's 306th career start at the Saddledome. His record is 187-82-36 with 27 shutouts. ... After posting a .921 mark last season, Kiprusoff entered the night with a .877 save percentage, which ranks him 49th, ahead of only Florida's Scott Clemmensen (.874). The worst of the past 10 years belongs to Andrew Raycroft (.879) with Boston in 2005-06.