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Flames close in on Northwest crown

by Brian Hunter
The Northwest Division title and home ice in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs is just a victory away for the Calgary Flames.

Miikka Kiprusoff made 23 saves for his NHL-leading 45th win of the season and defenseman Jim Vandermeer scored his first goal of the season Monday as the Flames defeated the Los Angeles Kings 4-1 at Pengrowth Saddledome.

Calgary took a two-point lead over Vancouver in the Northwest and travels to face the Canucks on Tuesday night. If the Flames win in regulation, they would wrap up the division and assure themselves the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference.

"This is what you play for," said captain Jarome Iginla, who had a goal and an assist. "All season, you talk about the division and now we have the opportunity. It's just one game. We're looking forward to it and we feel in back-to-backs, we're due for a lot better performance too."

Daymond Langkow and David Moss also scored and Mike Cammalleri contributed a pair of assists to help Calgary win for only the third time in seven games.

"It's really exciting. It makes tomorrow's game, for our team, absolutely huge and for me personally, probably the biggest game I've played in my NHL career," Cammalleri said.

Wayne Simmonds scored midway through the second to briefly tie the game for the Kings. Erik Ersberg started in net and stopped 34 shots.

"We were just really lackadaisical, we came out and played individual hockey and that's not how you can play in this League," Simmonds said. "You play individually and that's what happens, you get burned."

Kiprusoff kept alive his chance to tie Martin Brodeur's single-season record for wins by a goalie -- if he starts and wins the Flames' final three games, he would match the mark of 48 that Brodeur set for New Jersey during the 2006-07 season.

Calgary carried a 2-1 lead into the third and Vandermeer provided some insurance at the 3:46 mark by breaking a scoring drought that stretched back to Jan. 24, 2008, when he was playing for Philadelphia. The veteran defenseman actually mishandled the puck in front of the Los Angeles net, but Kings defenseman Jack Johnson, who was trailing the play, knocked it past Ersberg.

Moss then capped the scoring with his 20th goal of the season, but first in 15 games dating back to a Mar. 3 hat trick against Ottawa. Moss swooped in off right wing and went to his backhand to beat Ersberg with 9:14 remaining.

"You never want to feel like you're completely struggling going into the playoffs so to get that out of the way, hopefully I can keep it going now heading into the playoffs," Moss said.

Following a scoreless first period, the Flames outshot the Kings 19-5 in the second. Langkow got them on the board at 2:05 by jabbing a puck in during a scramble in front.

Simmonds brought the Kings back, snapping a shot past Kiprusoff at 10:47 after Michal Handzus won an offensive zone faceoff.

Iginla put the Flames in front to stay with 3:22 left in the period, one-timing a Cammalleri feed before Ersberg could slide across to stop the shot.

"(Cammalleri) was carrying it all night, he was creating things out of the corner, drawing penalties, he almost drew a penalty every time he had the puck down low," Iginla said.

Material from wire services was used in this report.

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