|Miika Kiprusoff continued his mastery of Minnesota on Sunday afternoon by making 38 saves as the Calgary Flames edged the Wild 2-1.
Watch Kiprusoff stone the Wild's Mikko Koivu
A few hours later, there was a new tenant in the Northwest Division penthouse.
Miikka Kiprusoff made 38 saves for the second consecutive start and continued his mastery of Minnesota as the Calgary Flames got goals from Daymond Langkow and Craig Conroy in a 2-1 victory.
The Flames now have 74 points, one more than the Wild and two ahead of the Vancouver Canucks in third. Daymond Langkow and Craig Conroy scored goals, but the story once again was Kiprusoff, who was coming off a 1-0 win Friday over Detroit.
"Kipper's played pretty well all year, but he's been pretty much unbeatable this week," said Flames captain Jarome Iginla, who assisted on Langkow’s power-play goal that opened the scoring.
Kiprusoff has been particularly unbeatable when facing the Wild. His 18 career wins in only 26 decisions is the highest total by a goaltender against that franchise, and he boasts a 1.70 goals-against average and .936 save percentage to go with it.
Mark Parrish got a shot past Kiprusoff only 38 seconds into the third period ( 700K ) as the Wild outshot the Flames 39-16 overall and 14-3 over the final 20 minutes, but Kiprusoff stood tall to earn his 32nd win of the season, third in the League.
"We played a very conservative game to take away as much neutral zone as we could," Calgary coach Mike Keenan said. "You have to win in different ways, and I'm happy with the way we won today."
Owen Nolan picked up his 800th NHL point with the primary assist on Conroy’s goal ( 700K ), which turned out to be the game-winner. The Flames won their fourth in a row and jumped from what had been a four-way tie for fifth into sole possession of third in the Western Conference, by virtue of being a division leader.
"It's crazy. Every game is huge, and I think that's how it's going to be the rest of the year," Kiprusoff said. "We can't worry too much about other teams. We just have to keep winning."
Kiprusoff helped make that possible Sunday with several big stops late in the second period, when the Flames took three straight penalties and created a pair of brief 5-on-3 advantages for the Wild.
He stopped Brian Rolston from the left circle, then slid across to prevent Mikko Koivu from putting in the rebound. He also made a pad stop on Branko Radivojevic early in the third ( 700K ).
Minnesota also had a goal disallowed midway through the second with Calgary holding a 1-0 lead. Kiprusoff stopped a Pierre-Marc Bouchard shot and Aaron Voros battled for the rebound with Flames defenseman Jim Vandermeer. It appeared Vandermeer’s skate knocked the puck past Kiprusoff as Voros slid into the goalie, and referee Brad Miller quickly waived it off.
"He said the goalie couldn't react to the puck. He couldn't move to go and get that puck because he was hit," Minnesota coach Jacques Lemaire said.
Langkow had staked the Flames to a one-goal advantage when he tipped Iginla’s pass by Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom at 12:35 of the opening period ( 700K ). Langkow’s 25th of the season came on the power play.
Conroy made it 2-0 at 13:52 of the second, a few minutes after the Wild lost what they thought was the tying goal. Nolan led a 2-on-1 and Conroy finished it off, snapping a shot past Backstrom for his ninth.
Parrish gave Minnesota hope early in the third by putting the rebound of a Koivu tip past Kiprusoff, but the Wild didn’t score again and watched what had been a six-point lead over the Flames just one week ago completely evaporate.
"Unfortunately at this time of year, it's not enough just to go out and work hard. You need to pick your level up and play with a playoff type of mentality and that type of style," Parrish said.
Lemaire put matters rather succinctly.
"We're not that bad, but we're slipping. That means that other teams are doing better than we are," he said.
Material from wire services and team media was used in this report.