Coming off an awful road trip to California, Calgary Flames goalie Miikka Kiprusoff was back to his old self Wednesday.
The veteran netminder made 36 saves and Lee Stempniak scored the winning goal and added an assist as Calgary picked up a badly needed two points with a 5-2 victory over the Detroit Red Wings.
"I played way better than I played the last two games and it was nice," said Kiprusoff, who was at his best in the opening 20 minutes as the Flames took a 2-1 lead despite being outshot 15-6.
On the road trip, Calgary was outscored 13-3 in losing once to Anaheim and twice to Los Angeles. Kiprusofff started the first two games and yielded an uncharacteristic 10 goals on 46 shots, getting pulled in the third period of the first loss to the Kings.
"Kipper's an all-star goalie, he's the backbone of our hockey club and he obviously kept us in there tonight and gave us an opportunity to win it in the third," said Flames left-winger Curtis Glencross, who also had a goal and an assist in his returned to the lineup after missing two games with a sore wrist. "Big win for us. Nice to come back home after a disappointing road trip, it was a big bounce-back game for us."
Stempniak broke a 2-2 tie at 5:37 of the third period Wednesday on a beautiful setup from Glencross, who wheeled deep into the Detroit zone and zipped a pass to an uncovered Stempniak in the slot.
"They were all puck watching and I saw Stemper out of the corner of my eye. It had to get through a few bodies and sticks to get through to him but luckily it did," said Glencross, who added his ninth at 9:12, capitalizing on Valterri Filppula's turnover along the side boards.
Blake Comeau followed with another Calgary goal just 48 seconds later to make it 5-2.
"We can't just keep giving the puck away, it doesn't work like that. We're not getting anywhere," said Red Wings defenceman Niklas Kronwall. "If we want to get into the playoffs, we have to start fixing this right now and it's up to all of us in here. We all have to better and we know it. It's about time we fixed that."
Alex Tanguay and Jay Bouwmeester also scored for Calgary (10-11-4), which won its fifth in a row at home.
Kronwall and Filppula replied for Detroit (12-10-5), which remains seventh in the Western Conference.
"To me, that was a disturbing loss, because all we had to do was continue to do things right, and you win the game," said Wings coach Mike Babcock. "Whether we don't have the maturity as a group, or the stick-to-it-ness, there is no sense in what happened here."
While Kiprusoff was playing well, struggling at the other end was Detroit's Jonas Gustavsson. Given the start with No. 1 goalie Jimmy Howard out with the flu, the 28-year-old Swede finished the night with just 17 saves as the Red Wings held a 38-22 edge on the shot clock.
"We got that big goal end of the second and we were feeling good coming into the third and then you make a few mistakes and they capitalize and after that, it's hard to get it back," said Detroit defenceman Kyle Quincey.
Detroit tied the game 2-2 at 16:39 of the second when Filppula hammered Quincey's rebound past Kiprusoff to snap an ugly 0-for-37 mark with the man advantage on the road this season.
Away from Joe Louis Arena, Detroit had amassed 69 minutes 20 seconds of time on the power play before that goal. It was the worst start to the season in that respect since the 1928-29 Detroit Cougars, who played a 44-game schedule, failed to score a road power-play goal the entire year.
Detroit opened the scoring 3:20 into the game, but Tanguay tied it on a breakaway at 5:55. The Flames then took a 2-1 lead at 9:52 on a lucky bounce as Bouwmeester's shot rebounded in off the skate of Detroit defenceman Jakub Kindl.
Stempniak says it's not too late for Calgary to get on a roll and climb back into playoff convention in the West.
"I know we haven't done it yet this year but we have the team to do it," he said. "Everyone knows the situation now, you just have to look at the standings and know it's really desperate times for us and we can't really afford to lose games, especially games in a row."