With the regular season winding down, the Calgary Flames have seen a solid defense led by a hot goaltender translate into some key wins.
After a stellar matchup between two Finnish goaltenders, the Flames and Minnesota Wild wrap up a two-game set and their season series on Thursday night.
Reigning Vezina Trophy winner Miikka Kiprusoff made 38 saves before stopping Pavol Demitra and Brian Rolston on the only shots he faced in the shootout as Calgary won 1-0 in Minnesota on Tuesday. The loss ended the Wild's franchise-record nine-game winning streak.
"I did my job and it felt pretty good tonight," said Kiprusoff, who tallied his 21st shutout in three seasons with Calgary (41-25-10) to break Dan Bouchard's franchise record set from 1972-80.
Kiprusoff has started every game of this season series, going 4-1-2 with a 1.37 goals-against average and two shutouts. Though only 1-0-2 in Minnesota, Kiprusoff has surrendered just three goals.
The Flames are looking for their first three-game road winning streak since March 14-24, 2004. Calgary's 11 road victories this season are tied for second-fewest in the league and are five fewer than any other team in the playoff picture.
The eighth-place Flames and Colorado are the only teams still battling for the final Western Conference playoff berth. Calgary hosts the Avalanche on Tuesday and visits Colorado next Thursday in the regular-season finale for both teams.
With 92 points, the Flames have a seven-point lead over the Avalanche with six games remaining.
"It was good that we got the two points," Calgary's Alex Tanguay said after scoring in the shootout Tuesday. "We're in need of them right now."
The victory extended the Flames' overall win streak to four games, during which Kiprusoff has stopped 120 of 125 shots for a 1.22 GAA. Two of the wins were against Nashville and Detroit, which are vying for the top seed in the West.
Jarome Iginla also scored in the shootout against Niklas Backstrom, who stopped all 24 shots he faced in regulation and overtime for Minnesota (45-24-8). Despite the defeat, the Wild extended their franchise-record point streak to 10 games and also clinched the second playoff berth in team history when Colorado lost to Vancouver.
"I thought (the defense) played very well," Backstrom said on the Wild's official Web site after posting his third shutout. "But they've been playing that way all season. They kept them from getting good scoring chances."
Backstrom, who appears to have replaced oft-injured veteran Manny Fernandez, is 7-0-1 with a 1.34 GAA in his last eight starts. Against the Flames this season, the rookie has yielded seven goals in six games.
Rookie backup Josh Harding could get the start in this one. He's 3-0-1 with an 0.74 GAA and a shutout in five games, including three starts.
"I think it's great the way we're playing," Wild coach Jacques Lemaire said.
Minnesota now hopes the high-scoring duo of Demitra and Marian Gaborik will be able to solve Kiprusoff. Demitra looks to avoid going without a point in three straight games for the first time since Jan. 14-20.
Gaborik's season-high point streak ended at eight games Tuesday. He had five goals and eight assists during that run.
Minnesota has five regular-season games remaining and will try to break a logjam in the West standings. The Wild are tied with Dallas and San Jose for fifth, each with 98 points.