Iginla in disbelief

ERIC FRANCIS -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 2:27 PM ET


 TAMPA -- Right up until the end, Jarome Iginla refused to stop believing.

 Having been on so many championship teams before, he was convinced that despite a stifling Lightning defence the magical ride that had seen his club reach Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final would end the way all the biggest games of his life have.

 With a win.

 "Once we got life from (Craig Conroy's) goal I thought we were going to do it," said Iginla, slumped in his dressing room stall.

 "I thought we were going to tie it up and find a way to win this game. But they found a way to get an early goal or two and hung on for a win. Credit them but I don't know."

 Stunned by a 2-1 loss that sent the St. Pete Times Forum into a celebration that could be heard while Iginla quietly sorted through his feelings for the media, it marked the first time in his eight years in Calgary he didn't flash his trademark grin even once.

 Then again, in his mind things had never before been this low.

 "It's the worst feeling in sport or anything like that that I have been a part of," said Iginla, shaking his head.

 "I don't know if it's going to be awhile before we sit back and think about it but right now it's about how close it was and that's going to sit with us for awhile. It's hard to believe. We expected to be hearing the music and the crowd and things like that (in Calgary) but it's not the way it went."

 Although he was heavily involved in the play all night long, the Flames captain was unable to generate any quality scoring chances in a horrendously tight-checking game that saw his club fire only 17 shots on Nikolai Khabibulin. So closely guarded by the Lightning, he was unable to record a single shot on goal, which is bound to be brought up as the game is analyzed for years to come.

 True to form, he was the first to point out how disappointed he was with his performance.

 "We were literally one shot away -- one second away -- from winning the Stanley Cup and in the last two games I didn't find a way to contribute to the guys' win," said Iginla, whose team's loss also cost him the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP.

 "You can ask (the Lightning) if they adjusted something -- I'm not sure. I wasn't good enough in the last couple and I don't know what else to say. This is going to sit with me for a long time."

 Pointing out how proud he was of his teammates through their improbable run, Iginla refused to subscribe to coach Darryl Sutter's theory the team ran out of gas due to injuries.

 "Honestly it's not a factor," said Iginla.

 "We found a way all year to get here, to fight through injuries. We never quit."

 When talk turned to the fans back home, he got choked up.

 "For a city they showed what a great sports city it is to get behind it," said Iginla, unaware of the throng of fans that would greet his gang at the airport in the wee hours of the morning.

 "All year and during the lean years to create that excitement in the city ... We wanted to win it for so many reasons and to be one shot away ... it's very hard to take today."


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