Miikka Kiprusoff still hasn't decided if he'll retire at the end of the season, but if the Calgary Flames goaltender does call it a career, he went out in style Friday night.
In the Flames' final home game, Kiprusoff was in vintage form, looking like the goalie that led the Flames to the Stanley Cup in 2004, making 32 saves to backstop Calgary to a 3-1 victory over the Anaheim Ducks.
"It's been a pretty rough season but even with that, I'm going to take my time," said Kiprusoff, when asked about retirement after the game. "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."
After making US$5 million this year, Kiprusoff's salary drops to $1.5 million next year in the final year of a six-year contract extension he signed in 2007. There has been rampant speculation that Kiprusoff, 36, will instead retire at the end of this season.
At the trade deadline, the Toronto Maple Leafs were pursuing a trade with the Flames for Kiprusoff. However, after the team got permission to speak with him, Kiprusoff decided that for family reasons, he would not waive his no-movement clause.
If that is it, 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 Jumbotron seconds later, the fans rose to their feet and remained standing, chanting his name, right through the end of the game and the subsequent naming of Kiprusoff as the game's first star.
With the game puck in his glove, Kiprusoff saluted the crowd after the final buzzer with a waving of his stick at centre.
"It's all you can ask as a player, it's an unbelievable feeling," said Kiprusoff, 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."
Coming on the heels of a spectacular 36-save performance Wednesday in Calgary's 3-2 win over Detroit, it was a special few days.
"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, Brian McGrattan and Roman Cervenka into an empty net scored for Calgary (18-22-4). The Flames will play their final four games on the road 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, it may not happen this year either, currently sitting 25th overall.
Anaheim (27-11-6) is winless in its last four but still leads the Pacific Division by five points over the Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks. However, coach Bruce Boudreau was not impressed with his team's effort.
"We're certainly not going to (win the division, finish second in the West) playing the way we did the first two periods," 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. 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 the Ducks' Francois Beauchemin and got loose down the wing where he took the puck to the net and slipped 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. The 21-year-old is one of many young Flames players getting a chance over the final month to make an impression. In 10 April games since being recalled from Abbotsford (AHL) for the second time, Horak has a goal and four assists.
Glencross left the game in the first period and did not return after an knee-on-knee collision with Ducks defenceman Ben Lovejoy.