"Glove save and a beauty by Khabibulin!"
"Oh what a stop by Kiprusoff!
Chances are you heard those phrases, or something similar time and again during the 2004 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
And with good reason.
Nikolai Khabibulin and Miikka Kiprusoff put on a puck-stopping clinic during the 2004 Finals, alternating victories and heroics until the climatic seventh game of the Finals, when Khabibulin was able to gain consecutive victories to capture the Stanley Cup for the Lightning against the Flames.
Khabibulin stopped 16 of 17 shots in series decider, including a Cup-clinching save on Calgary's Jordan Leopold that he somehow got his right pad on with 4:55 left in Game 7.
"When I saw him on the ice after the game I went over to him and kidded him about that save and said, 'Not bad,'" Tampa defenseman Brad Lukowich joked.
Not to be outdone, Kiprusoff, who stopped 13 of the 15 chances he faced in Game 7, made a dazzler of his own with 3:04 left in the 2-1 nail biter, denying Vincent Lecavalier on a breakaway, to keep his team within striking distance of the Cup.
"He's played so well all year long," Calgary forward Stephane Yelle said. "He gave us a chance to win every night and that's what you expect from a great goalie."
While neither goalie had advanced to the Finals before, both performed like seasoned postseason veterans, combining for 31 wins and 10 shutouts in 49 games.
Entering the 2004 postseason, the two goaltenders had one shutout between them in their playoff careers. But their stars shone this time around as Khabibulin and Kiprusoff each posted five shutouts, sharing third place on the all-time list for most shutouts in one postseason.
Khabibulin's shutout in the first game of the opening round against the New York Islanders was the first in Lightning playoff history and the second of his career. He added consecutive shutouts in Games 3 and 4 in New York. The Tampa goalkeeper, who became the first Russian goalie to win a Stanley Cup, opened the second round against Montreal with a 4-0 blanking and came up big in Game 4 of the Finals when he made 29 saves and shut out the Flames 1-0, evening the series at 2-2 at the time. Khabibulin also set a Lightning record for playoff wins in a year with 16.
"He's a great goalie," Lukowich said. "There's not much else you can say about him. People talked about him all throughout the playoffs, but you don't really need to say words about him, you just need to watch him to know what kind of goalie he is.
"Kabby's just been a guy that's been there for us throughout the playoffs. He's been rock solid."
While the two were in a zone this spring, they were especially tough to beat following a loss. Khabibulin posted a perfect 7-0 record with a 0.95 goals-against average, a .963 save percentage and two shutouts after a defeat, while Kiprusoff finished with an 8-2 mark, a 1.31 goals-against average, a .944 save percentage and four shutouts following a loss.
Kiprusoff also played the most minutes by a goaltender in one playoff year, piling up 1,655 minutes in 26 games. The Calgary goaltender helped his team tie a record in the postseason by winning 10 games on the road. Martin Brodeur and the New Jersey Devils were the first to post double-digit road wins with 10 victories in both the 1995 and 2000 postseasons.
"The reason we're here is because of Kipper," Calgary forward Shean Donovan said. "All season he's played great."
Kiprusoff and the Flames eliminated three regular-season division champions this postseason. First, Calgary downed the Vancouver Canucks (Northwest Division) in the first round, then it was the Detroit Red Wings (Central Division) in the second and the San Jose Sharks (Pacific Division) in the third. Since the NHL took exclusive control of the Cup in 1927, the only other club to defeat three division winners in one playoff year was the New Jersey Devils in 2000. The Devils' Stanley Cup-winning run included victories against the Toronto Maple Leafs, Philadelphia Flyers and Dallas Stars.
Kiprusoff came to the Flames in November in a deal with the San Jose Sharks after Roman Turek went down with an injury. The former Sharks goalie took advantage of the opportunity and backstopped his new team all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time in 15 years. "Kipper" compiled a 12-7 record in 19 games in the first three rounds of the playoffs, netting four shutouts, a 1.90 GAA and a .930 save percentage along the way.
"I think he had a great season. He had a chance to be a No. 1 goalie and he really took advantage of it," Khabibulin said. "He had a great regular season and he did the same in the playoffs."
The same can be said for Khabibulin. He lived up to his nickname of the "Bulin wall" in the final two games of the Finals when everything was on the line. He helped rally his team back from a 3-2 series deficit by winning his last two starts, earning Tampa Bay its first-ever Stanley Cup championship.
"Kabby played unbelievable," Tampa's Ben Clymer said. "I can't say enough about him. I mean if we could have multiple Conn Smythe winners he certainly deserved it as well."