CALGARY, Alberta Jarome Iginla says he'll do anything possible to help Calgary win the Stanley Cup, even trade punches with another star. Now the Tampa Bay Lightning will find out if there's any fight left in them.
Chris Simon put in his own rebound off Iginla's feed after a period and a half of frantic, physical but scoreless play and Calgary's fighting Flames took the series lead by beating Tampa Bay 3-0 in Game 3 Saturday night.
Simon and Shean Donovan scored just over three minutes apart in an uptempo second period after Calgary, playing the first Cup final game on Canadian ice in 10 years, was held to two shots in the first period.
Iginla scored with 1:32 remaining to seal the Flames' first final win in Calgary since they last won the Cup in 1989 and even fought with the Lightning's Vincent Lecavalier early in the game.
''I think that fight was huge and really set the tone physically for us,'' Simon said. ''They've got a lot of skill and we know we had to establish a physical presence.''
Iginla insisted he didn't set out to start a fight, but liked what happened after it.
''We didn't get a lot of shots in the first period, but we were very physical. That carried into the second,'' Iginla said. ''... The fight is just part of the intensity out there; everybody knows what's on the line.'
The upstart Flames, out of the playoffs for seven straight seasons until being revived by coach Darryl Sutter, can take a 3-1 lead by winning Game 4 Monday but only if Tampa Bay halts its monthlong trend of following a loss with a win.
The Lightning have alternated wins and losses for nine straight games, three short of New Jersey's 12-game streak in 1988 a fitting run, too, because Tampa Bay has usually followed a strong game with a weak one. The Lightning evened the series by winning 4-1 in Game 2 following an uninspired 4-1 loss.
''That's the way it's been all playoffs for us,'' coach John Tortorella said. ''We need to get the next one.''
Lecavalier understands the dangers of falling behind 3-1 to a team as inspired as the sixth-seeded Flames.
''We have to get back (to playing) like we did the first couple of series,'' he said. ''I know it's the finals and it's tougher, but we definitely have to be more consistent.''
Making the night even worse for Tampa Bay, forward Ruslan Fedotenko was helped off the ice after being slammed into the boards by Robyn Regehr with about six minutes remaining. Fedotenko, who has 10 playoff goals, looked dazed and had a cut right cheekbone.
One trend has quickly taken hold in this surprising matchup of longtime tail-end teams: The first team to one wins.
In all three games, the winning team has scored first and, with both teams sensing how important that first goal would be, the game started at a frenetic pace and stayed that way. For good reason, too; Calgary is 12-1 and Tampa Bay 11-2 when scoring first.
''You always want to get the first goal, and we didn't get it tonight,'' Lecavalier said.
Tampa Bay wasted an excellent chance to take the early lead, getting more power-play chances (3) than Calgary did shots (2) in the first period. The Lightning power play finished 0-for-4.
Just after the Lightning's Brad Richards couldn't score on a short-handed breakaway just past the midway point, Iginla skated down the right wing boards, hopped over defenseman Darryl Sydor and fed Simon in the right circle. His initial shot missed, but Simon stuffed his rebound past Nikolai Khabibulin inside the near post. To celebrate, he slammed body-first into the boards in celebration.
Calgary was only 11-for-97 on the power play until then, a conversion rate only about half that of Tampa Bay's. The goal ignited the Flames' Sea of Red the jersey-wearing crowd of 19,221 that calls itself the loudest in the league, and it got even louder a few minutes later.
Lecavalier controlled the puck behind the Flames net and tried to throw it in front to Fredrik Modin, but the pass went wide. Donovan gathered it just inside the blue line, raced down ice and beat Khabibulin with a perfect shot inside the far post at 17:09 of the second without the goalie reacting.
Flames goalie Miikka Kiprusoff made the lead stand up, making 23 saves in his fifth shutout, He matched Dominik Hasek (2002) and Martin Brodeur (2003) by getting at least one shutout in each playoff round.
Before Simon and Donovan each scored their fifth goals, the play was almost a contraction no scoring, very few shots, but almost continuous end-to-end action highlighted by the Iginla-Lecavalier fight about six minutes in. Notes: Calgary has won two straight at the Saddledome and is 5-5 at home. Tampa Bay is 5-3 on the road, with three straight losses. ... Teams winning Game 3 of a tied series have won 21 of 24 finals. ... Tampa Bay's streak of scoring a power-play goal in eight consecutive games ended. ... Calgary didn't allow a first-period goal for the 10th time in 11 games. ... The Flames are 10-0 when leading after two periods. ... Simon was traded to Calgary by the Rangers in early March.
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