Flames fail to get Cup for Canada

Posted: Sunday, June 06, 2004

CALGARY, Alberta Maybe it was the phone call from Ray Bourque, maybe it was their coach's psychological ploy to tilt the pressure Calgary's way.

Whatever it was, the Tampa Bay Lightning have forced Game 7 in a Stanley Cup finals that much of Calgary and Canada, too must have thought was over.

Martin St. Louis knocked in a rebound in the opening seconds of the second overtime and the Lightning spoiled the Flames' Stanley Cup celebration with a series-tying 3-2 victory in Game 6 Saturday night.

Brad Richards scored two power-play goals in regulation, almost a sure sign the Lightning would win. Tampa Bay is 31-0-2 overall and 9-0 in the playoffs when Richards scores.

Breaking an entire city's heart for at least two nights, the Lightning ruined a possible once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the Flames to win the Cup at home and become one of the most improbable champions in NHL history.

The Lightning won it 33 seconds into the second overtime when Tim Taylor jumped on the puck at the blue line and shot it on net, where it was tipped by Richards. St. Louis, the regular season scoring champion who was waived by Calgary in 2000, rushed in to slip the rebound past goalie Miikka Kiprusoff.

''It's been a hell of a series, and it's fitting we have a Game 7,'' Lightning coach John Tortorella said.

On Friday, Tortorella added to the already enormous pressure on the Flames to close it out at home, essentially guaranteeing a victory and revealing his team already was planning for Game 7 in Tampa on Monday night.

The reverse psychology might have worked as the Lightning, who have won following each of their last seven losses, scored on their first two power plays and forced the Flames to play catch-up.

''Game 7 will be a great experience,'' Tortorella said. ''We're not going to tippy-toe, we're going to dive right in.''

Now, the Flames will try to avoid becoming only the second team in 33 years to squander a 3-2 series lead. The 2001 Devils dropped their final two games to Bourque's Colorado Avalanche. Bourque had gone 22 seasons without winning the Cup.

Fittingly, Bourque called Taylor on Saturday with advice on how to overcome a 3-2 deficit. He also offered encouragement to the Lightning's Dave Andreychuk, who has played a record 1,758 games without winning the Cup.

''They (the 2001 Avalanche) did it, so why couldn't we?'' St. Louis said. ''It meant a lot to hear from a Hall of Famer like him.''

Andreychuk said, ''He was willing to give us a call and let us know what the situation is ... for him to want to participate in what we're doing, well, I can just see him on the other end of the line, still being a leader.''

Now, Andreychuk said, ''I finally have my chance.'' And the Flames must be wondering if they've squandered their best chance.

''It's disappointing but we have to let it go now,'' defenseman Jordan Leopold said. ''We have to refocus and get rolling. You can't look at the past.''

Coach Darryl Sutter doesn't think the Flames caved in to the pressure.

''I just thought some of our guys that play a lot and expect to be really good for us just weren't sharp tonight,'' he said. ''But I don't think uptight, no.''

After a scoreless and tentative first period, both teams opened up in the second period easily the most entertaining and fast-paced of the series.

Richards twice put Tampa Bay in front with his 11th and 12th goals of the playoffs. But the Flames, desperate to avoid making the long trip back to Tampa, answered each time.

Richards scored on a power play with 4:17 gone as his goal line pass intended for Andreychuk deflected off Kiprusoff's glove and into the net, briefly silencing the clamorous, banner-waving ''Sea of Red'' Saddledome crowd.

Chris Clark answered midway through the period off a pass from Ville Nieminen, who was suspended for Game 5. But Richards came back with his second power-play goal in just over six minutes, grabbing the puck from Marcus Nilson in the right circle to get off a shot that deflected off Kiprusoff's stick.

The Flames tied it late in the period when Oleg Saprykin found Nilson open at the side of the net following a Tampa Bay turnover.

Calgary almost won it on a power play midway through the third, but Nikolai Khabibulin stuck out his right leg to stop Martin Gelinas' rebound attempt perilously close to the goal line. Multiple TV replays did not conclusively show the puck crossing the line.

''It's got to be conclusive,'' Sutter said. ''I looked at it from two different angles, and unless they have a different one, you can't say that it's a goal.

''We reviewed a number of camera angles and only one showed the puck,'' NHL director of hockey operations Colin Campbell said. ''From that angle, it was inconclusive whether the puck crossed the goal line ... there was insufficient evidence.''

Until the huge letdown, Calgary was supercharged all day. About 100,000 had been expected to surge downtown if the Flames won. It was obvious the fans did not expect the series to extend beyond Saturday night: A Calgary Herald banner headline read, ''Tonight's the Night.'' Notes: Flames RW Shean Donovan, who injured a leg in Game 5, was scratched. ... Richards' two goals came on consecutive Lightning shots. ... Calgary finished 5-7 at home in the playoffs. The Flames were only the second team in 24 years with a chance to close out the finals at home in Game 6. ... The team scoring first has won every game in the series, and each of Calgary's last 15 games. ... The visiting team has won 13 of the last 16 finals overtime games, including the last two games in this series. ... The last seven multiple overtime playoff games have been won by the visiting team. ... Tampa Bay has alternated winning and losing for a record 13 consecutive games.



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