Friday, June 4, 2004

Flames one step from claiming Cup

Lead series 3-2 on Saprykin's OT goal

The Associated Press

TAMPA, Fla. - No conspiracy here: The supposedly unwanted Calgary Flames are one victory from winning the Stanley Cup.

Tampa Bay vs. Calgary
Game 1: Calgary 4, Tampa Bay 1
Game 2: Tampa Bay 4, Calgary 1
Game 3: Calgary 3, Tampa Bay 0
Monday: Tampa Bay 1, Calgary 0
Thursday: Calgary 3, Tampa B. 2, OT
Saturday: at Calgary (Ch. 9, 2)
*Monday: at Tampa Bay (Ch. 9, 2)
*If necessary; All games at 8 p.m.
Oleg Saprykin scored his first goal in 18 games, grabbing the rebound of a slap shot by Jarome Iginla from the right circle and ramming it past Nikolai Khabibulin at 14:40 of overtime to give the Flames a 3-2 victory over Tampa Bay in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Finals Thursday night.

With players from both teams fatigued after a lengthy sequence in which neither team could make a line change, Iginla - who had lost his helmet in the flurry - shot the puck on net and Saprykin, firmly planted in front, put it in.

Calgary, a long shot just to make the playoffs, leads the best-of-seven series 3-2 and can win its first Cup since 1989 - and Canada's first since Montreal in 1993 - at home Saturday night. Only one team in 33 years has blown a 3-2 Finals lead, the 2001 New Jersey Devils to the Colorado Avalanche.

The Flames excelled again in a Game 5 - they are 4-0 in the pivotal contests, all on the road - by rallying around coach Darryl Sutter's remarks Wednesday insinuating top NHL executives don't want a small-market, blue-collar Canadian team to win the Cup.

Sutter's blistering comments, made in reaction to Flames forward Ville Nieminen's one-game suspension for ramming Vincent Lecavalier into the glass in Game 4, drew a sharp rebuke from NHL commissioner Gary Bettman.

But the us-vs.-them mentality apparently motivated the Flames, who outworked the Lightning while outshooting them 25-12 in the first two periods. The Lightning stayed in the game only because of a goal in the final minute of the first period (Martin St. Louis) and the first minute of the third (Fredrik Modin on a power play).

The Flames are 8-1 in the playoffs following a loss. The Lightning have alternated winning and losing for 12 consecutive games, tying the record of the 1988 Devils.

RED WINGS: Dave Lewis, whose contract expired when Calgary beat Detroit in the second round of the playoffs, will return as coach. Terms of the contract have not been finalized.

MAPLE LEAFS: Forward Darcy Tucker underwent abdominal surgery. He had 21 goals and 11 assists in 64 games last season.

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