Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Road Warriors

Martin Gelinas scored early, Jerome Iginla scored when it counted and the Calgary Flames put together an impressive debut in the Stanley Cup Final. Spurred on by the now routine spectacular goaltending of Miikka Kiprusoff, the Flames played a dedicated road game, using their fore check to counter the fancy passing and flourishing skill development that the Bolts showcased, on this night it was hard nosed, stick to the playbook hockey that would tell the story of the game. The win by the Flames quickly took the wind out of the sails of the fans of the Lightning, who had been pounding their thunder sticks from the earliest drop of the puck.

Martin Gelinas began the quieting with his goal at 3:02 of the first period, a shot that Nickolai Khabibulan had problems handling and inadvertently steered into his own net. That set the fans and Lightning back as they scrambled to counter the Flame game plan.
Jerome Iginla once again rose to the occasion of a big game, his shorthanded goal in the second period was a pivotal point in the game, giving the Flames a two goal lead and frustrating the Lightning’s power play attack. Stephane Yelle made it three to nothing with two minutes to go in the second and the Flames seemed to be in control for the night. Tampa was getting its scoring chances, but Kiprusoff was equal to the task, by the end of the second period the Bolts were leading on the shot clock 18-15 but trailing on the score board 3-0.

The third period saw former Flame Martin St. Louis break the shut out bid with a goal at four minutes. But it was a case of a Flames team that couldn’t’ be moved off of their plan. They only managed four shots in the third, but shut down the Lightning quite well, Tampa only getting six shots on Kiprusoff by the game end. Full value for the win Kiprusoff was named the game’s second star, a fitting award for the guy that night after night keeps the Flames rolling along.

Calgary continued their amazing streak on the road winning their fifth consecutive road game and the ninth road win in this playoff season. The win in game number one is the best confidence builder a team could ask for. They aren’t getting fitted for Stanley Cup rings or anything, but with game one successfully under their belt, the goal of winning the Cup suddenly seems a very tangible endeavour. For Tampa it’s time to regroup, losing game one is bad luck, dropping game two would put them in a deep hole. Calgary knows that the quickest way to hoisting Stanley is to come out flying and bury the Bolts in game two. Darryl Sutter should have no problem getting their attention prior to the drop of the puck in game two, this team is in a zone right now, focused on doing what ever it takes to win. Their hard work was rewarded in game one, the work ethic will on display again on Thursday, with the same attitude in 48 hours the Flames could be heading home up 2 games to none.

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