Cup party postponed two days

MELISSA RIDGEN --Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 3:58 PM ET

 The party isn't over -- it's just been delayed a couple of days.

 The Flames Stanley Cup hopes were put on hold last night after a 3-2 double overtime loss to Tampa Bay.

  Chants of "We want the Cup," which reverberated throughout the Saddledome in the first overtime, were dashed when former Flame Martin St. Louis scored 33 seconds into the next frame, sending the series to a seventh and deciding game.

 Many Flames faithful hadn't even returned to their seats from the intermission when the goal went in.

 They greeted the bad news with stunned silence, politely applauded the Flames effort and quietly exited the 'Dome.

 "No one could have thought it would end this way. It would've been such a poetic win for the Flames. They played so well -- it just hurts," said Josh Cowling, who watched the game at the 'Dome.

 Cara Rowe, 22, shrugged off the loss, saying, "It will be better to kill them" in Tampa Bay.

 Terry Simpkins, who was also at the game, said he "couldn't ask for a better, more-entertaining game."

 "Calgary and Canada and hockey fans everywhere owe the Flames for making these the best playoffs ever," added Simpkins.

 Lightning fans Ramona Merritt, 36, from Largo, Fla., and her friend, Mike Buckingham from Wesley Chapel, Fla., beamed at all the excitement.

 "This city is wonderful. You have fantastic fans and we've had a great time," said Ramona. "Excited is not even the word to describe how I feel about going home for Game 7."

 "There's such a sense of joy and relief and elation."

 "Canadians support hockey like it's seven games of the Super Bowl," said Buckingham. "This is going to be the best Game 7 in NHL history."

 In the second period, with the Flames trailing 1-0, Chris Clark scored to tie the game, sending the Red Mile into a frenzy horn-honking and cheering.

 But the up was followed by a down as Brad Richards responded moments later with his second goal.

 The Red Mile went wild again in the dying minutes of the period when Marcus Nilson converted an Oleg Saprykin pass to knot the game.

 A controversial play in the third period could have given the Flames hockey's Holy Grail.

 Martin Gelinas, who scored Calgary's three previous series-clinching goals, appeared to have maybe scored.

 With the game tied 2-2 in the third period and the Flames on a powerplay, Gelinas drove the net and had the puck hit him.

 Lightning goalie Nikolai Khabibulin made a save, but a TV replay seemed to show the puck crossed the line.

 But many fans were unaware of the play, as the most conclusive replay showing it as a goal was initially shown on ABC. Most Canadians tune into the CBC, which later showed the replay.

 Nonetheless, 23-year-old Dwight Brody was undaunted: "The fans in Calgary are the best anywhere."

 Police made a number of arrests inside the Saddledome, most of them alcohol-related, including one incident where a cop was allegedly assaulted.

 Along the Red Mile, meanwhile, cops, who'd braced for the worst, greeted disappointed fans.


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