Flames wouldn't do things easy way

ERIC FRANCIS -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 4:24 PM ET

 Of course, the Calgary Flames lost.

 Of course, the Flames had a goal ignored and the biggest street party in city lore was postponed.

  Of course, the man who ruined what otherwise would have been the greatest night in this city's history was a player cast off by the Flames as too small.

 You know why it all makes such perfect sense?

 Because nothing the Calgary Flames have done this spring has come easy.

 Nothing.

 The scene set last night would have finished the most improbable playoff run in NHL history in all-too-perfect fashion.

 The Flames couldn't have that. They thrive on doing it the hard way.

 Instead, they'll head to Tampa this morning for a winner-take-all seventh game that will be watched by more Canadians than any other playoff game in history.

 Those who jumped on the Flames' bandwagon before the last few weeks may recall this sort of heartache gripped the city three rounds ago when a

 5-4 triple overtime loss at home against Vancouver sent a full house into the streets fearing the worst.

 Against Detroit, it was a Game 4 loss to the Red Wings that had many counting the Flames out again.

 Same goes for a Game 4 loss here against the Sharks.

 Whenever they've seemed down they've proven never to be out, winning every one of the games that followed such aforementioned heartache.

 Their resilience is what has made their run so gripping.

 Dramatic, too.

 What happens next is anyone's guess, which is what this crew seems to feed off.

 "The good news is we get two cracks at it," said Jordan Leopold, obviously counting last night's failed attempt at claiming the club's second Stanley Cup in 15 years.

 "Hey, we're back on the road. We would love to have risen to the occasion but we've got another chance at it."

 Having already tied the NHL record for road wins with 10, maybe Darryl Sutter's crew simply wants to claim that record for its own as well as the Cup tomorrow night.

 The big controversy today will revolve around 'The Goal No One Saw', which came midway through the third when birthday boy Martin Gelinas had the puck bank off his skate and into the pad of Nikolai Khabibulin.

 Replays slowed down and dissected like the Zapruder film by CBC showed the puck crossing the line long after the fact.

 Jarome Iginla appeared to have brought it to the officials' attention but to no avail.

 The players were oblivious to it all until told after the game.

 "If that's the case, shame on them for not calling down," said Gelinas, when told of the controversy surrounding the replay.

 "I haven't seen it and I knew nothing about it."

 The league issued a release pointing out reviews of the play made well after play was allowed to continue were inconclusive, as only one angle showed it apparently crossing the line. Please -- we don't need any more wacky conspiracy theories.

 Either way, like Smarty Jones earlier in the day, the biggest favourite around these parts fell short as Martin St. Louis capped off a 3-2 win in double overtime.

 As the Lightning piled onto the ice and the Flames vacated the premises, stunned fans quickly realized it was their last chance to salute the gang that has electrified the city. The same ones who chanted, "We want the Cup," during overtime broke into an impromptu "Go Flames Go."

 They believe. Their support is unwavering as they've been through so much worse the last seven years without such playoff excitement.

 Adding to the challenge, Shean Donovan has little chance of returning from the knee injury that kept him out last night and Robyn Regehr hobbled out of the arena after the game with a protective boot on his foot.

 Yes, they were one goal away from celebrating the perfect night with the fans who've made this run so special but it wasn't meant to be.

 The plot thickens as an entire NHL season boils down to one game. In a hostile -- OK, hot -- environment.

 Backs against the wall, injuries mounting, momentum slipping and the odds stacked against them.

 I don't know about you but it sounds like the perfect finish for Flames fans is just one sleep away.


Videos

Photos