Detroit Shock City!

TODD SAELHOF -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 11:49 AM ET


 The Calgary Flames' reward for their first-round upset of the Vancouver Canucks came in the form of the Detroit Red Wings.

 Yes, that would be the 10-time NHL champion Detroit Red Wings -- a team sporting certain Hall-of-Famers Brett Hull, Chris Chelios, Steve Yzerman, Nick Lidstrom and Brendan Shanahan.

 This was a Round 2 foe looking to avenge a first-round sweep by the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim one spring earlier.

 "Stanley Cup winners, the Presidents Trophy winners," said Flames assistant captain Craig Conroy, assessing his team's high-profile opponents prior to Game 1 of the NHL's second round.

 "They're expected to win the Stanley Cup and they've just got a team that feels like it can win another Cup. It is the Detroit Red Wings. It's just like you're playing one of the greatest franchises of all-time."

 Added Flames GM-head coach Darryl Sutter: "It doesn't matter what you say about them, they're obviously the clear-cut favourite going into this series. But there's no pressure on us. I think it's a great experience for our team."

 Never mind a great experience, the Flames turned it into a winning one against the vaunted Red Wings.

 What began as a clear disadvantage -- both on paper and in the first two games of the series -- turned into an advantage for the Flames when the underdogs began using their speed, forechecking and physical game to tire the Red Wings.

 Experience helped net the Wings 109 points and the NHL's best record during the regular season. But age kept them from keeping pace with the free-wheeling, hard-hitting Flames, particularly as the series wore on.

 The Flames were overwhelmed by the firepower of the host Wings in Games 1 and 2, although the visitors did escape with a 3-2 overtime win in the opening game thanks to Martin Gelinas' continued heroics in assisting on Marcus Nilson's game-winning goal fired top-shelf past Curtis Joseph.

 After falling 5-2 in Game 2, the Flames settled in to play their close-checking brand of hockey, turning back the Wings in winning Game 3 in 3-2 fashion at the Saddledome.

 Captain Jarome Iginla, with a timely powerplay goal, reaffirmed his status as the best budding playoff performer.

 A big third-period in Game 4 gave the Wings a 4-2 win -- and apparent control of the series -- heading home to the Joe.

 "We lost a third period when it was up for grabs to take a huge advantage in the series," Iginla said. "That would have been great but it didn't happen. They probably played their best game of the series. Now we have to come back and play our best game of the series."

 The Flames did just that in Game 5. Using the resilience that forged the Round 1 win, Iginla and his teammates broke the confidence of the Wings with a near-perfect road game. In the second period, Iginla fed Conroy for the game-winner high to the short-side of Joseph and goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff posted his second shutout of the playoffs.

 "Every day, we've had to go into our locker-room and circle the wagons because of something," Sutter said. "That's why their mental toughness is as good or better than any team I've ever been associated with."

 For good measure -- and the series win -- the Flames duplicated their 1-0 win in a thrilling Game 6 at the 'Dome over the Wings, who were without captain Yzerman, whose eye was injured by a puck in Game 5.

 It took 19:13 of overtime before Gelinas again scored on a goalmouth scramble for his league-record third series-clinching goal in post-season history.

 "Every time you get a chance to play in overtime, you get psyched up, I get psyched up," said Gelinas, who banged home Iginla's rebound on the winner.

 "It feels unbelievable," Iginla added.

 Sure, it does. But believe it.


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