It looked like vintage Miikka Kiprusoff on Wednesday night.
The 36-year-old Calgary goaltender made 32 saves in his return from a sprained knee to lead the Flames to a 4-1 victory over the San Jose Sharks.
“We played a really strong game,” said Kiprusoff, who missed 13 games over a four-week span. “You know with a team like that, at some point they’re going to get shots, but we were able to play smart. We knew they were going to open up and we were going to get some chances.”
Blake Comeau scored a tiebreaking goal early in the third period while Jarome Iginla, Roman Cervenka and Curtis Glencross, into an empty net, also scored for Calgary (9-8-4), which improved to 4-1-1 in its last six games.
Joe Thornton scored the lone goal for the Sharks (11-7-4), who are 2-6-1 in their last nine.
Kiprusoff was injured in the second period of Calgary’s 4-1 victory over the Red Wings on Feb. 5. Calgary went 6-5-2 during his absence.
He was busiest in the third as the Sharks had the period’s only two power plays and outshot Calgary 17-6, but couldn’t solve the Finn, whose NHL career began as a Shark 12 years ago Tuesday when he was first recalled from the minors.
“I felt that he was solid right from the get-go,” said Flames coach Bob Hartley. “He was seeing all the pucks and that’s such a good feeling for guys on the bench, for coaches, and probably for fans.”
Calgary took a 2-1 lead at 2:57 of the third when Comeau burst down the right wing and snapped a shot inside the far post, past San Jose goalie Thomas Greiss.
It was Comeau’s first goal this season and just his second in the last 41 games, dating back to last season.
“I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think about it a lot,” said Comeau. “ I feel like I’ve been getting chances all year but it’s almost like a snowball effect, two or three don’t go in and you start gripping you stick and maybe the confidence goes down a little bit.”
After scoring 24 goals two years ago with the New York Islanders, he notched just six goals last year and had just two assists heading into Wednesday’s game.
“I’m a competitive guy and I’ve scored some goals in the past, so obviously not getting off to the start I want this year was frustrating,” he said. “But I know there are other things I can bring to the game and other things I can try and do to help the team win.”
Iginla scored his sixth goal in the past five games less than two minutes later and that’s all the offence it would take against a Sharks team that has really struggled offensively of late.
Slumped in his locker, well after the game, Sharks defenceman Dan Boyle was searching for answers.
“It happens, you go through streaks where you’re not scoring and I understand that but ...” said Boyle, shaking his head. “We just sucked right from the beginning.”
In the past 17 games, San Jose has scored more than two goals (excluding shootouts) just once, which came in a 5-3 loss. That comes on the heels of scoring no less than four goals each of the first five games of the season.
“We got some chances tonight but didn’t put the puck in the net,” Boyle said. “The power play’s got to come through with a goal and they didn’t.”
Thornton’s goal was only his second since Jan. 27.
“We’re disappointed,” said Sharks coach Todd McLellan. “We had an opportunity to win a game going into the third period and we didn’t play very well. I thought the Comeau goal was a bit of a backbreaker.”
The Flames got off to a good start, taking a 1-0 lead at 4:27, before the Sharks had put its first shot on Kiprusoff. Defenceman Jay Bouwmeester had his shot stopped by Greiss, but the rebound kicked out to Cervenka, who promptly buried it for his first goal in nine games.
Greiss was making his first start for the Sharks in 10 games with Anntti Niemi getting the night off after defeating the Vancouver Canucks Tuesday night. He finished with 22 saves on 25 shots.
San Jose’s power play has been an issue of late. After going 0-for-4 against Calgary, they are 3-for-42 in the last 10 games.
Calgary was 0-2 with the extra man.
The Flames now depart on a difficult California road trip. They play once in Anaheim then two straight in Los Angeles against the defending Stanley Cup champion Kings.
Notes: During the second intermission, a fan stripped down to his boxers and strutted across the ice, making it from one all the way to centre before security escorted him off the icea Hartley collects win No. 338, tying him with Michel Bergeron for 39th on NHL all-time lista It was the ninth anniversary of the start of Bouwmeester’s iron man streak, which is 609 games, 6th longest all-time.