CALGARY – The Calgary Flames had to wait a month for franchise goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff to return from a sprained MCL.
He proved to be worth the wait.
Kiprusoff stopped 32 shots in his first game back and Blake Comeau and Jarome Iginla scored 1:39 apart to break open a tie game as the Flames (9-8-1) downed the San Jose Sharks 4-1 at Scotiabank Saddledome on Wednesday.
"He was huge. It was great to see him back," Comeau said. "With a player that plays as well consistently as he does, he's obviously a big boost for our hockey club. It's a great morale boost for our locker room to see him in the game and obviously he made some huge saves for us. It's great to see him back."
Kiprusoff missed 13 games after suffering a Grade 2 sprain of his medial collateral ligament on Feb. 5 against the Detroit Red Wings. The 36-year-old franchise wins leader showed little in the way of rust.
"I had my time to get ready for this game and I've been working pretty hard," Kiprusoff said. "Because other goalies played so well here, I had time here to get really ready. They didn't want to push me and take the chance that I get hurt again. Today I felt ready."
Failing on five separate occasions to climb over the .500 mark this season, Kiprusoff helped the Flames finally accomplish the feat at the expense of the Sharks, playing their second game in 24 hours after beating the Vancouver Canucks 3-2 in a shootout on Tuesday.
"We're disappointed," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "We won one and we had an opportunity to win a game going into the third period and we didn't play very well in the third period."
Streaking in down the wing, Comeau beat Sharks goalie Thomas Greiss with a snap shot blocker side for his first goal of the season just 2:57 into the period to give Calgary a 2-1 lead.
"I feel like no one puts more pressure on themselves than I do for myself," Comeau said. "It was a good feeling to get on the board, but more importantly it was nice to get the win and keep climbing the standings. So if I can contribute, that's a good thing and if we keep winning, that's even better."
Iginla extended that lead to two at 4:36 off a San Jose turnover in its own end. Jiri Hudler picked the puck off the side-boards and found the Flames' captain in the high slot, who pumped another shot past the blocker of Greiss to give Calgary a 3-1 lead. The goal was Iginla's sixth in five games after starting the season with just one in his first 16.
The two goals sandwiched a glorious opportunity from Hudler on a 2-on-1 set up by Iginla 30 seconds earlier.
With a two-goal cushion, Kiprusoff made 17 third-period saves to slam the door on the Sharks.
With Lee Stempniak in the penalty box for hooking, Kiprusoff swatted away a Joe Pavelski shot from the point with nine minutes remaining and made a pair of saves off Logan Couture with five minutes left.
The Sharks pulled Greiss pulled in favor of an extra attacker while on the power play late, but Curtis Glencross added another into an empty net to seal the win.
The Flames got on the board before the Sharks had an opportunity to test Kiprusoff.
Iginla found Jay Bouwmeester jumping in on the rush, but Greiss stopped the defenseman's shot. Jumping on the rebound, Roman Cervenka buried the puck into the partially-open net to give Calgary a 1-0 lead at 4:27.
The Sharks recorded their first shot on goal just over a minute later, one of six consecutive shots launched Kiprusoff's way. The most dangerous, a deflection of Brad Stuart's wrister from the point by James Sheppard, was equaled by the Flames' goaltender.
Kiprusoff didn't mind the light workload to ease his way back into game action.
"I was quite happy with that to be honest with you," he said.
Trading shots for the rest of the period, neither team was able to generate a significant scoring chance to close out the period despite three power plays.
A turnover off the stick of Mark Giordano allowed the Sharks to tie the game in the second period.
Stripping the puck off Giordano along the boards, Pavelski walked out of the corner and fed a pass across the top of the crease that Joe Thornton tapped across the goal line at 13:53 to make it 1-1.
Less than a minute later, a turnover by Dennis Wideman gave the Sharks a glorious opportunity to jump ahead. Couture picked off Wideman's clearing attempt and fed Ryane Clowe in the slot, but Kiprusoff denied the winger on the doorstep.
"We played a very strong game," Kiprusoff said. "The first two, if you look, we didn't give up too many scoring chances."