Calgary\'s Jeff Friesen, right, congratulates Flames goalie Mikka Kiprusoff on his shutout. (CP PHOTO/Jeff McIntosh)
Ritchie scored his fourth goal in the last three games and Miikka Kiprusoff made 26 saves for his 100th career win as the Calgary Flames beat the Minnesota Wild 3-0 Tuesday night. After scoring just three times in the season's first 33 games, Ritchie has caught fire of late thriving on the increased ice time he's received with the Flames captain and leading scorer Jarome Iginla sidelined with a sprained knee.
"It's a lot more fun when you're contributing offensively and the team's winning," said Ritchie, who had a season-high 19 minutes of ice time, two minutes more than Saturday night, which had been his season-high.
Ahead 2-0 in the third period, Ritchie put the game out of reach at 6:54 on his first shorthanded goal of the season. The goal was created by Matthew Lombardi, who streaked into the Minnesota zone and then spun sliding a pass right onto the stick of Ritchie, who fired a low shot past goaltender Niklas Backstrom.
"I had a tough time trying to catch him in the first place, then he makes the backhand spin-around pass, I don't know how he knew I was there," Ritchie said.
Daymond Langkow and Mark Giordano also scored for Calgary (22-15-4), which finishes with five wins out of six on its longest homestand of the season. The Flames improve to 17-5-0 at home, tying them with Minnesota for the most home wins.
Calgary also moves within one point of Vancouver for the lead in the Northwest Division. Calgary has two games in hand on the Canucks.
"Our division is so tight, you drop a couple in a row, you're in the cellar. You win a few in a row, you're in first place," Ritchie said.
The road woes continued for Minnesota (21-19-3). The Wild are 0-10-1 in their last 11 games away from the Xcel Energy Center.
"The saga continues," said Wild right-winger Brian Rolston. "We have to figure out how we can win on the road and it's something we have to figure out quick."
The NHL's worst road team with at 4-15-1, the Wild get three more chances to find the solution to their struggles with stops in Vancouver, Edmonton, and Chicago before returning home.
"For our team, when we get behind, it's the same old story," said Wild defenceman Keith Carney. "It feels like nothing's going right for us, every mistake is going to end up in our net, we start getting that feeling and that's something we have to change. We have to continue to play hard and create more offence."
In goal for the Flames, Kiprusoff was solid all night capping his perfect evening with a spectacular glove stop on Rolston with three minutes left to preserve his fifth shutout of the season, and 22nd of his career.
"It's not fun when Jarome is out but we hope he's back as soon as possible. Now, while he's not in the line-up, we all have to play well," said Kiprusoff.
After a scoreless first period, Calgary opened the scoring 1:24 into the second period when Langkow got his stick on Robyn Regehr's shot from the blue-line, deflecting it past Backstrom.
Calgary extended its lead to 2-0 at 17:59 of the second when Kristian Huselius neatly set up Giordano for a power-play goal.
Both teams lost players to injury during the game. Calgary defenceman Rhett Warrener took a shot in the midsection in the third period and did not return.
Derek Boogaard (head) and Mark Parrish (lower body) did not play in the third period for the Wild. Both players are listed as day-to-day. Boogaard was hurt in a rousing scrap with Flames call-up Eric Godard, which came just two seconds after Calgary took a 1-0 lead.
Notes: Exactly halfway through the season, Calgary's 46 points is six fewer than at the same point last season (25-12-4).. Calgary RW Eric Godard made his Calgary debut after being recalled Monday from Omaha (AHL). Godard had appeared in 107 games with the New York Islanders over the previous three seasons.. Calgary LW Marcus Nilson (leg) is back skating and is expected back within the week. Nilson has missed 16 games.. Minnesota's only two road wins in their last 17 games away from home have come in shootouts. Their last regulation road win was Oct. 21 at San Jose.