CALGARY (CP) - The veteran goaltenders at the other end of the ice may have got the win, but rookie Calgary netminder Matt Keetley's excellent performance made quite an impression on new Flames coach Mike Keenan.
Tomas Vokoun and Craig Anderson combined for 27 saves as the Florida Panthers blanked the Flames 3-0 in NHL pre-season action Sunday.
At the other end of the ice, Keetley stole the show turning in an inspired 31-save effort after unexpectedly being pressed into service when expected starter Curtis McElhinney took a shot in the groin late in the pre-game warm-up.
"I understand he's a fairly nervous goaltender but he didn't have time to be nervous tonight," Keenan said. "He jumped in, he was a peak performer for us tonight. He really did a super job for us."
It was a roller coaster couple of days for Keetley.
A native of nearby Medicine Hat, Keetly had spent $800 to purchase 13 tickets to the game for friends and family, expecting to play the second half of the game. After the tickets were bought, he was then told by the coaching staff he was not going to play at all, only to find out just before the start of the game that not only was he going to start, he was going to play the entire 60 minutes.
"They ended up getting a show," said Keetley. "I knew what I had to do was go out there and work my hardest. If you see Kipper out there, he holds the team in it and that's what you're trying to do."
Among Keetley's many sensational stops was consecutive breakaway stops off Rostislav Olesz and then Olli Jokinen just seconds apart in the second period while Florida was short-handed.
"I have to give credit to him, the young guy played really, really well," said Jokinen of Keetley. "It could have been 5 or 6-0 after two periods easily. He did pretty amazing."
Keetley, drafted by the Flames in the fifth round of the 2005 draft, played his junior hockey with the Medicine Hat Tigers. Last season he was named the Western Hockey League playoff MVP and then won the Hap Emms Memorial Trophy for most outstanding goaltender at the Memorial Cup.
There is an open job to back up goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff and originally it was expected to be a battle between McElhinney and Brent Krahn. However, Keetley may have added himself into the mix.
Jokinen's rebound goal at 11:45 of the first on a power-play was the only goal of the game until Richard Zednik and rookie defenceman Cory Murphy added goals in the game's final 13 minutes.
Vokoun, acquired in the summer from Nashville, had 10 of the stops playing the game's opening 30 minutes.
It was a rough debut for Calgary's power-play, which went 0-for-11 in addition to giving up a short-handed goal.
For its first exhibition game, Calgary dressed an unusually large number of veterans. Among them was a forward line of Alex Tanguay, Matthew Lombardi, and 35-year-old free agent signing Owen Nolan, who inked a one-year deal with the Flames in July.
Lombardi and Tanguay turned a couple of nice passing plays into dangerous scoring chances early in the game while Nolan looked solid.
Notes: After his goal, Zednik slid into the end boards heavily and ended up leaving the ice gingerly, looking to be favouring his shoulder. . . . Brett Sutter, son of Flames general manager Darryl Sutter, played left-wing for the Flames on a line with Dustin Boyd and David Moss. . . . Also making his Flames debut was D Adrian Aucoin, who was paired with Robyn Regehr. Aucoin, 33, was acquired from Chicago in a trade that sent Andrei Zyuzin to the Blackhawks. . . . The Flames and Panthers meet again on Tuesday night in Saskatoon.