Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Flames, Iginla stake claim as hockey's best



The Associated Press

TAMPA, Fla. - Martin Gelinas started the Stanley Cup Finals the same way he usually ends playoff series, with a big goal. No wonder the Calgary Flames again looked right at home on the road in these improbable playoffs.

The Flames shook off a five-day layoff and any jitters about playing for hockey's biggest prize, scoring on their first shot in the Finals since 1989 and riding a superb two-way game by star Jarome Iginla to surprise the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-1 in Game 1 Tuesday night.

Iginla, stamping himself as hockey's best player in the kind of playoffs usually enjoyed only by superstars, scored short-handed to make it 2-0 in the second. He also so disrupted what had been a dominating Tampa Bay power play that the Lightning started looking tentative until Martin St. Louis scored early in the third period, with Calgary already up by three goals.

"That short-handed goal was the difference for us," coach Darryl Sutter said. "That was a huge goal, a second-effort goal. He had everything going."

The Flames, also getting a goal from Stephane Yelle only 2:47 after Iginla scored in the second, improved to a remarkable 9-2 on the road with five consecutive wins - including all three games at San Jose in the Western Conference finals.

Game 2 is here Thursday night.

"On the road, it seems like we're closer and our focus is really good," Yelle said.

Iginla was a game-long force on the penalty kill as the Flames killed off all but one of Tampa Bay's five power plays. The Lightning had scored on seven of their previous 14 power plays and has at least one man-advantage goal in seven straight games.

That hesitancy carried over to even strength as the Lightning created few odd-man rushes and never developed the effective transition game they had in the first three rounds. It didn't help that Flames goalie Miikka Kiprusoff, a third-teamer in San Jose earlier this season, was sharp and in control from the start, or exactly what Nikolai Khabibulin wasn't.

Calgary is the first Canadian team to play for the Cup in 10 years.

Calgary 1 2 1-4
Tampa Bay 0 0 1-1

First Period-1, Calgary, Gelinas 7 (Conroy, Ference), 3:02. Penalties-Yelle, Cal (interference), 11:32; Kubina, TB (holding), 18:52.

Second Period-2, Calgary, Iginla 11, 15:21 (sh). 3, Calgary, Yelle 3, 18:08. Penalties-Regehr, Cal (holding), 9:22; Ference, Cal (hooking), 14:48.

Third Period-4, Tampa Bay, St. Louis 6 (Richards, Boyle), 4:13 (pp). 5, Calgary, Simon 4 (Saprykin, Regehr), 19:40 (pp). Penalties-Nieminen, Cal (roughing), 3:05; Donovan, Cal (roughing), 4:30; Stillman, TB (roughing), 4:30; Roy, TB (roughing), 4:30; Saprykin, Cal (unsportsmanlike conduct), 7:55; Fedotenko, TB (roughing), 17:50; St. Louis, TB (high-sticking), 19:06.

Shots on goal-Cal 5-10-4-19. TB 10-8-6-24. Power-play Opportunities-Cal 1 of 4; TB 1 of 5. Goalies-Cal, Kiprusoff 13-7 (24 shots-23 saves). TB, Khabibulin 12-5 (19-15). A-21,674.




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