Flames get in Ottawa's way
Miikka Kiprusoff may be the only one who officially gets the shutout after Thursday's game against Ottawa, but you can be sure he'll unofficially share the honour with his Calgary Flames teammates.
That's because the Flames skaters stifled the sputtering Senators offence, blocking a season-high 30 shots, and were rewarded with a 2-0 victory over Ottawa at the Saddledome.
"Guys are paying the price and that's what you have to do if you want to win games like this," Kiprusoff said. "If you block a shot, there's not going to be a rebound and there's no scoring chance."
Jamal Mayers scored his first goal in a Calgary uniform in the first period and Chris Higgins added another in the third as the Flames rode tight defence and Kiprusoff's goaltending for most of the night.
"We had some great efforts from guys blocking shots but Kipper deserves a lot of credit for this win," Mayers said. "Kipper made some huge saves and kept us in the game when we weren't playing very well."
Defenceman Mark Giordano and Cory Sarich will need the most ice after the game. Giordano blocked a game-high six shots, while Sarich got in the way of five. The Sens, by comparison, blocked 10 shots total.
With its fourth straight win, Calgary jumped back over Detroit for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. The Red Wings temporarily took it over when they beat Minnesota earlier Thursday.
Kiprusoff stopped all 33 shots for his fourth shutout of the season.
The cause was helped by an Ottawa offence that fell back to earth after breaking out for four goals during a win against Edmonton on Tuesday. The Senators are 1-3-1 since the Olympic break ended, and are averaging less than two goals per game over that span.
"It's always a concern when you don't score, of course, but I'm not going to criticize any of our effort," said Ottawa coach Cory Clouston. "We had the chances, we had the opportunities. [Peter] Regin hit a post, [Matt] Cullen hit a post, we had a goal disallowed. Sometimes those things happen."
Ottawa looked most dangerous on the power play Thursday, but Calgary's tenacious shot-blocking prevented the Sens from getting many pucks to the net, and they went 0-for-5. The Flames went goalless on their three opportunities.
Calgary's No. 1 line also came back to earth for at least one game. The Flames' top trio of Jarome Iginla, Matt Stajan, and Rene Bourque had combined for 18 points in the previous three games heading into the clash against the Senators, but were held off the scoresheet against Ottawa.
Brian Elliott made 23 saves in the Senators crease, as Ottawa lost its fourth straight game in Calgary, a streak dating back to Jan. 2003. The Senators missed a chance to tie Buffalo for the Northeast Division lead and remain two points back.
Mayers scored on the first shot of the game, which came five minutes into the contest, putting one in the top corner for his third of the season at 5:29.
The former Leaf was included in the seven-player deal that sent Dion Phaneuf to Toronto at the end of January.
There were only eight shots total in the period, but the game wasn't as lethargic as it sounded. In the first frame 11 shots were blocked, the Senators had a goal disallowed on a high stick, and Mike Fisher lost the handle on the puck during a half-breakaway on Kiprusoff.
Getting in the way
Calgary continued to block shots left and right in the second period, and when they were getting through Kiprusoff was there to make the save.
Peter Regin had a glorious chance to tie it eight minutes into the third. The Sens forward had Kirpusoff down and the net gaping, but his shot deflected off the sprawling netminder and hit the crossbar.
"I was disappointed. I didn't know what to do," Regin said. "In the second, I had a shot go off the crossbar too. Some nights, you feel like you have a goal in you. I had that feeling tonight but it didn't work out."
That miss would be costly. Higgins made it 2-0 Calgary one minute later when he one-timed an Ian White pass into the cage for his eighth of the season, salting away the win.
The game was delayed by 30 minutes as arena staff had trouble replacing a pane of glass that shattered during warmups.
Both teams face the Vancouver Canucks next. Ottawa visits GM Place on Saturday (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 10 p.m. ET) as the Canucks come home for the first time since their NHL record 14-game road trip. Calgary visits Vancouver on Sunday.
With files from The Canadian Press