Saturday, May 29, 2004

Flames and Lightning learning quickly to be enemies



By Ira Podell
The Associated Press

CALGARY, Alberta - It's taken only two games for the Calgary Flames and Tampa Bay Lightning to realize they don't really like each other.

The teams split a pair of 4-1 decisions to open the Stanley Cup finals, and frustration spilled over from the club at the short end of the score in each. Things got more heated in the closing minutes of the Lightning's Game 2 win on Thursday, when pushing, shoving and yelling also produced some rare playoff punching.

"I'm sure you have some bruises, you get hit, you think it's not fair ... it's part of the game," Tampa Bay forward Ruslan Fedotenko said Friday. "It's nothing unhealthy.

"We're trying not to have retaliation, but whatever you give you have to expect receive also."

The Lightning and Flames each eliminated three familiar conference opponents to get this far. That set up a matchup of teams that met only once this season, six times in four years, and 20 times since the Lightning joined the NHL in 1992.

They've gotten to know the other pretty well during the two blowouts. Judging by the screaming and finger-pointing across the benches, the numerous scrums and the increasing bad blood, more of the same can be expected when the best-of-seven series shifts to Calgary for Game 3 on Saturday night.

In the opener, 11 minor penalties were called. On Thursday, the number of infractions jumped to 32 and totaled 124 minutes. There were two fights, four misconducts and another two game misconducts.

"I believe to win against a team you have to hate them because you have to be able to be physical to do things maybe that some of the fans don't notice," Lightning forward Martin St. Louis said. "It's easier to do those things when you hate the team."

Flames captain Jarome Iginla wouldn't go so far as to say the teams hate each other. But Calgary hasn't won the Cup in 15 years and the Lightning has never gotten this far.

Neither is willing to give away an inch because it might mean losing out on a championship.

"I'm sure they're very nice people and they're great players. It's not personal it's just so much at stake," Iginla said. "It's just about determination and doing whatever it takes to win."

The Flames are developing a reputation of being sore losers. Iginla said he's heard it, while teammate Andrew Ference said he believes it. When told that Ference fessed up to the charge, Iginla smiled and said, "We might be."

Ference said the Flames take pride in their hatred of losing. He wasn't upset that other teams recognize that trait and don't like it. The defenseman credited Iginla for getting that feeling to trickle down through the team.

"They're an in-your-face team and they're going to keep coming at us," Lightning captain Dave Andreychuk said. "They're not a team that's just going to roll over and just give us games."

After Game 3, either the Flames or Lightning will be within two wins of the Cup. That will surely only increase the losing team's resolve, desperation and aggression.

No one wants to return to Tampa needing to win three straight to capture the Cup.

"It's about time some guys decided they are upset about who they are playing against," Flames coach Darryl Sutter said.

Stanley Cup Finals

Tampa Bay vs. Calgary

Series tied 1-1

Game 1: Calgary 4, Tampa Bay 1

Game 2: Tampa Bay 4, Calgary 1

Today: at Calgary (Ch. 9, 2)

Monday: at Calgary (Ch. 9, 2)

Thursday: at Tampa Bay (Ch. 9, 2)

*June 5: at Calgary (Ch. 9, 2)

*June 7: at Tampa Bay (Ch. 9,2)

*If necessary.

All games: 8 p.m.

• Since 1927, 54 of 78 Finals have involved a Canadian team, which has won 41 times. Montreal is the leader, with 22 wins.




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