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Kiprusoff ceremony ignites Flames' comeback in fifth straight win

Miikka Kiprusoff Miikka Kiprusoff - The Canadian Press

In what may have been his last time at the Saddledome, former Calgary Flames goalie Miikka Kiprusoff admitted that he was nervous strolling into the old barn ahead of his jersey retirement ceremony.

Ironic, given how many cerebral saves the soft-spoken Finn made on that ice in pressure-filled moments on the sport’s biggest stage as the Flames’ No. 1 goalie from 2003 to 2013.

“I was a little nervous to walk out there, but fans were great,” he told reporters after the ceremony.

Flames faithful serenaded ‘Kipper’ with several long cheers.

“I was nervous, for sure. Hopefully you didn’t see it, but I was. It felt pretty good.”

In the speech, the reclusive Kiprusoff thanked former Flames teammates and ownership, his family, and fans. 

“It was a privilege to play in front of you each and every night for nine amazing years,” Kiprusoff said in the speech.

He even found room to get in a shot at fellow franchise legend Jarome Iginla.

“I don’t think I need to tell you all how amazing a player Iggy was,” Kiprusuff said. “I think there was only one thing he couldn’t do — score on me during the practices…but seriously Iggy, it’s a huge honour to have my name up there with yours.”

As fans cheered and former Flames backup Jamie McLennan spoke to his friend’s accomplishments, there were several shots of Kiprusoff in near tears. 

“Seeing those old clips and hearing the fans, it is emotional,” he said.

Kiprusoff’s oldest son only saw him play once in the NHL. He beamed when asked what Saturday meant to him as a father.

“They really enjoyed today, on the ice,” Kiprusoff said. “The younger one asked me, ‘Was it like this when you played?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, it was crazy.’ He was like, ‘That’s cool dad, it’s amazing.’”

Soon after, his former team – fresh off another week of drama that included dealing its best defenceman in Chris Tanev and pointed comments by goalie Jacob Markstrom – capped an improbable third period comeback to stun the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-3. 

“That’s certainly one of the more exciting games I’ve been a part of,” said Nazem Kadri, whose coast-to-coast power-play goal reignited the building and sparked the comeback.

“That’s just who we are. We don’t back down. We don’t quit.”

“Naz’s goal…it got the building back into the game which I think helped elevate our team,” head coach Ryan Huska said.

“It was a beautiful goal. I think that helps, too.”

“It’s a SportsCentre top-10 goal and something that electrified the building,” Blake Coleman said.

The shift immediately after the goal, Coleman tied the game before Yegor Sharangovich capitalized on a Kris Letang turnover with less than a minute remaining.

“Noise or no noise, you need those players to be your best players this time of the year,” the coach added.

The Flames have now won five in a row to keep themselves in the playoff chase. 

“We’re not here to pack it in or look to the future,” Coleman said, referring to other deals Calgary may make ahead of the March 8 trade deadline.

“We’ve got guys that have won in here. We’ve got guys that want to win in here and there’s never going to be a quit in our team. As long as we’ve got breath in us, we’re gonna have that fight.”

On a night when so many fans were reliving the franchise’s glory days, the current Flames put on a show for them, Kiprusoff, and other Flames royalty and showed why, despite the noise and moves ahead, they are capable of what those Calgary teams once accomplished.

“It was nice to see, on a special night for Kipper, that we were able to find a way to get a win,” Huska said.

As fans saluted him Saturday after doing it for a decade straight, Kiprusoff returned the favour once more before watching his No. 34 rise to the rafters.

“Nine years went by too fast, but it was the best nine years that my family and I will always remember,” Kiprusoff said. 

“Thank you.”