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Flames finally solve Canucks

Tuesday, 01.01.2008 / 1:36 AM / Game of the Night

By Brian Compton - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

Flames goalie Miikka Kiprusoff made 24 saves as Calgary pulled within three points of first-place in the Northwest Division with a 2-1 victory over the Vancouver Canucks
They hadn’t experienced any success against the Vancouver Canucks in their first four attempts, but the Calgary Flames weren’t about to close out 2007 with yet another loss against the Northwest Division leaders.
After going 0-3-1 against one of their fiercest rivals, Daymond Langkow had two assists and Miikka Kiprusoff made 24 saves as the Flames won their second straight and pulled to within three points of first-place Vancouver with a gritty 2-1 victory at the Pengrowth Saddledome on Monday night.
''We were a lot more physical against them tonight than we have been in past games,'' Langkow said. ''That was a big factor in tonight's game.''
So was the Flames’ special teams, as they held the Canucks scoreless despite four power plays. Combine that with the play of Kiprusoff – who didn’t allow anything to get past him after Daniel Sedin scored on the first shot of the game – and the Flames finally had a recipe to defeat Vancouver.
''After the first one, he was in position all night long,'' Calgary forward Craig Conroy said of Kiprusoff. ''He was across quick, he was out at the shooter. He didn't give them anything. When the rebounds were sitting around, our (defense) did a great job of clearing the puck.''
Calgary coach Mike Keenan said his goaltender was ready for this one as early as the morning skate.
“He was the first player here this morning and the last person to leave after the skate,” Keenan said of Kiprusoff. “I watched him all day long, and I knew he was up to the task. He played an excellent game for us.”
After Sedin gave the Canucks a 1-0 lead, Owen Nolan evened things up at the 11:27 mark of the first period. After Luongo denied Dion Phaneuf’s blast from the point, Nolan took a feed from Langkow and lifted a shot over the Canucks’ world-class netminder to make it 1-1.
''I knew he was going to cover the bottom of the net,'' Nolan said. ''I just tried to raise it as much as I could. I was just fortunate to hit the back of the net.''
Kristian Huselius scored what proved to be the game-winning goal with 1:05 remaining in the second period. With the teams at even strength, Langkow kicked a loose puck over to Huselius, who put it past Luongo from the side of the net for his 17th goal of the season.
''There was a rebound there and I was tied up so I just kind of kicked it to the side of the net there and Kristian came out from behind and had an empty net,'' Langkow said.
The tally came after a Vancouver power play that featured a couple of key saves by Kiprusoff. The first came on a deflection by Daniel Sedin, which came just moments before a dazzling blocker save on a blast from the point by Alexander Edler.
''We had our chances,'' Canucks captain Markus Naslund said. ''I didn't think we played our best hockey but I felt we weren't out of the game. It just wasn't there for us tonight.''
Kiprusoff was 10-for-10 in the third period to earn his 19th victory of the season. He’ll look for No. 20 in his next start, which could come as early as Wednesday night, when the Flames host the red-hot New York Rangers.
''Our (penalty killing) was good,'' he said. ''We had some trouble with them earlier in the season. We knew it was going to be key to do a good job. I think we did a much better job.''
Keenan was certainly pleased with the fact that his team was able to finish out the calendar year with back-to-back wins. He’s hoping the Flames will carry the good luck into 2008.   
“We’ve been able to get some momentum going here,” Keenan said. “Every night is a tough night. We’ve managed to pick up points over the course of the month, so that’s a positive.”
Canucks coach Alain Vigneault was happy with the effort his team gave, considering the fact that Vancouver was coming off a 2-1 win over the Anaheim Ducks just 24 hours earlier. In the end, Vigneault believed Kiprusoff was the difference.
"Obviously we're not happy with the outcome of the game, but this team was here waiting for us, and we played a really smart road game," Vigneault said. "We played well enough to get something out of this, but you give credit to their goaltender."

Material from wire services and team media was used in this report.
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