Thursday, June 03, 2004

It's Saprykin Great!

The Calgary Flames are 60 minutes away from an achievement few hockey fans suspected they had a chance at in September. Oleg Saprykin put the Flames close to the ultimate of NHL experiences, when he put the winning goal in behind Nickolai Kahbibulin after 14:40 of overtime. In a thrilling overtime period the teams traded chances taking their fans from one extreme to another. Finally Saprykin made the shot that counted as the Flames defeated the Lightning 3-2 in game five, sending the Calgarians home for game six with a three game to two lead in the best of seven series.’

Once again it was a battle of goaltenders that set the pace for this game as both Nickolai Khabibulin and Miikka Kiprusoff exchanged amazing saves, to keep their respective team’s away from defeat. Time and time again one or the other was snaring a stray puck, facing down and incoming forward or diving madly to keep the puck from entering the net.

The two Martin’s opened up the scoring as Martin Gelinas scored the first goal of the game for Calgary on the power play at 2:13; Martin St. Louis bookended the period with a goal at the 19 minute mark as he took advantage of a collision between two defenders, his shot trickled to the net where during a mad scramble of Flame sticks it ended up behind Kiprusoff.

Jarome Iginla once again rose to the occasion as he scored the Flames second goal at 15:10 of the second period. For Iginla the goal marked the 13th time this playoff year that he has scored a goal, good enough for the post season goal scoring lead. The Calgary captain picked the far corner post to put the go ahead goal into the net.

In a break with the Calgary play book the game remained rather wide open after the go ahead goal, as the third period began a wide open style of play replaced the usual defensive shell that the Flames fall into when they hold a lead. Tampa roared back to tie the game at 37 seconds of the third as Frederick Modin scored the equalizer on the Tampa power play.

The third and overtime periods were probably two of the most entertaining periods of the playoffs as the action continued from end to end, with only Khabibulin and Kiprusoff standing in the way of the winning goal. Khabibulin finally surrendered the winning goal at 14 minutes of overtime period number one. Sparykin scoring the winner on a set up from team leader Iginla who has just had an amazing run in this Stanley Cup playoff year.

When all was said and done Calgary had fired 36 shots at the Tampa net, while the Bolts directed 27 the way of Kiprusoff. An indication of the state of the Tampa attack came in the second period when they could only muster 3 shots on net, the control of the play by Calgary in the second shut down the Tampa attack a situation that did not escape the attention of the Tampa coach.

The two teams take their tired bodies back to Alberta for game number six Saturday night at the Saddledome. For Calgary its chance to secure their place in Canadian folklore, with a victory they will claim their second Stanley Cup championship, their first one since 1989. Should the sea of red prevail on Saturday it will be the first Canadian Stanley Cup since Montreal’s of 1993. The CBC couldn’t have mapped it out any better had they tried. Hockey Night in Canada on Saturday could end up being Stanley Night in Canada. The entire nation will find a TV set Saturday night to see if the Flames can wrap this up with a skate around the rink with the fabled Cup.

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