ST. PAUL, Minn. — The Minnesota Wild finally figured out Miikka Kiprusoff with three goals on 10 shots in the first period for a 4-0 victory over the Calgary Flames on Friday night that kept their slim playoff chances alive.
Andrew Brunette, Cal Clutterbuck and Owen Nolan scored in the first for the 10th-place Wild, who moved within two points of idle eighth-place St. Louis and the post-season cutoff in the Western Conference.
Marian Gaborik polished things off in the third period and Niklas Backstrom made 27 saves for his eighth shutout of the season, the second most in the NHL.
Kiprusoff made 24 saves and was briefly pulled by coach Mike Keenan in the first period. The short-handed Flames fell to 2-10 on the second game of a back-to-back.
The Wild came into the game practically needing to win its five remaining contests to have a shot at the playoffs. They got off to a good start against a goaltender that has dominated them throughout his career and a division rival they had yet to beat all season.
Kiprusoff was 24-6-1-2 against Minnesota with a 1.79 goals-against average and a .931 save percentage.
But he was shaky from the start Friday, and his teammates weren’t any better.
Brunette opened the scoring by tipping in a slap shot from Marek Zidlicky to snap an 0-for-9 drought on the power play.
Just over 2 1/2 minutes later, Clutterbuck pounced on a loose puck to Kiprusoff’s right and zipped a wrist shot through the five-hole for a 2-0 lead. That’s when Keenan abruptly yanked his top goaltender and inserted Curtis McElhinney — sort of.
Kiprusoff was out for all of 12 seconds. Keenan had a few words for him on the bench, and sent him back in at the next stoppage.
If the move was meant to settle Kiprusoff down and clear his head, it didn’t work. He spent the rest of the period flopping on his belly to chase pucks and giving up big rebounds. Nolan capped the period with a light slap shot that somehow squeezed under Kiprusoff’s arm for a 3-0 lead, and the Wild coasted the rest of the way.
Calgary dressed only 16 players for this game. Defencemen Robyn Regehr and Adrian Aucoin were injured in Thursday night’s playoff-clinching victory at Dallas and were sorely missed in the first period of this one.