Saturday, April 10, 2004

Flames feel Sutter's heat, Burn Canucks!

Darryl Sutter made no excuses for his team after game one, he came right out and challenged his high profile players to make a better contribution to the group effort. And Friday night two of the more heavily criticized Flames made amends, Jarome Iginla and Miikka Kiprusoff both had stellar games, responding positively to Sutter’s advice, as the Flames tied the western quarterfinal at one win a piece, with a 2-1 win over the Vancouver Canucks at GM Place.

Two of the games three goals were scored on contentious plays as each goaltender was “bumped” out of the way prior to the puck entering the net. On neither occasion did the referees feel that a penalty call was deserved. Jerome Iginla did an astounding one man job of puck control, before taking advantage of a minor pick on Dan Cloutier to score the opening goal of the game at 3:06 of the first, that goal was followed quickly forty seconds later by one by Matthew Lombardi. The puck caught up in Sami Salo’s equipment popped out right in front of Lombardi, who took advantage of the confusion to put home the eventual winning goal. Markus Naslund countered for the Canucks in the second; all three goals probably could have been overturned had the refs been of the mind to make every call by the book. The two picks and the disappearing puck all items that in some other game may have resulted in a whistle and a face off.

The game featured lots of hard hitting, with explosive speed, toughness in the corners and a sense purpose for both teams. By the end it just seemed that on this night, the Flames wanted the win just a little bit more than Vancouver. Miikka Kiprusoff held the fort nicely for the Flames, turning away many Canuck chances, out shooting the Canucks 26-24. Dan Cloutier had a decent game as well, and did all in his power to give the Nucks a 2-0 series lead, but it wasn’t meant to be. Cloutier stopped 22 of the 24 shots directed his way. And while under attack for that brief flurry in the first, he held the Flames scoreless for the rest of the game. Tied at 1 win apiece, the two teams should provide many more thrills before this series is called complete.

The two teams now move on to Calgary on Sunday night and a game that should have the entire city on Fire for its Flames. It will mark the first playoff game at the Saddledome in over 7 years, a long time between playoff dates. Expect the Calgary fans to let loose with a lot of long suppressed joy, as the Flames skate out for the opening face off Sunday. The key will be to turn all that raw Saddledome emotion into a plan of attack for the Flames, and the chance to keep on rolling through the playoffs. With their first win in seven years under they’re belt, the Flames suddenly believe in themselves again. Sunday should prove to be just as exciting as Friday’s game was.

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