Finalists taking the fifth

b>AL STRACHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 3:01 PM ET


 If you haven't heard it before in the playoffs, you haven't been paying attention.

 But if you want hear it again, just for old-times' sake, here is Brad Richards' version.

 "We've got to treat it like a Game 7."

 They won't of course. They won't shake hands afterward, or make a Friday tee time if they lose.

 But Richards' point is valid. Both the Calgary Flames and Tampa Bay Lightning will be playing their hearts out tonight to get into the position of being only one game away from the Stanley Cup -- or more specifically, to avoid being only one game away from elimination.

 "They have shown they can come in and win Game 5s on the road," Richards said yesterday of the Flames. "They have done it every series, so that's what we're worried about."

 Well, as it happens, Tampa Bay is unbeaten in Game 5s as well. The Bolts won theirs at home, though, which is where they're playing tonight.

 When you get right down to it, the statistics and trends don't really matter. It's a pivotal game and both teams will be giving all they've got.

 The Flames feel, with a great deal of justification, that they outplayed the Lightning by a large margin during the two games in Calgary. But they won only one, a result they blamed partly on the officiating and partly on their inability to hit the net with their shots.

 The Lightning feels, with an equal degree of justification, that it has to be better, despite having won Game 4.

 "It wasn't a pretty game for us," said Tampa's Vincent Lecavalier, who is planning to play tonight despite having been injured on Monday. "I think we're going to look at (videotape) and see things that we did wrong.

 "Obviously, they had odd-man rushes and a couple at the beginning of the game could have hurt us.

 ACCURACY COUNTS

 "We're going to look at the tape and say, 'You know what? We can do a lot better.' And we can. If we correct these things, it's really going to help us for Game 5."

 The Flames' recipe is to play as they did in Calgary, but throw in some accuracy, some discipline and some opportunism.

 They had a lot of odd-man breaks, as Lecavalier pointed out, but they didn't get shots off them. Three two-on-ones were negated without a single shot.

 On other good opportunities, they shot high or wide. And obviously, after a loss that can be ascribed to penalties, they need discipline.

 At the same time, coach Darryl Sutter will have to do some juggling. With forward Ville Nieminen lost to a suspension, he'll probably insert the old-as-dirt Dave Lowry into the lineup.

 There is speculation he may scratch defenceman Mike Commodore, who has done a magnificent job of coming up from the minor leagues and filling a void left by injuries, but whose shortcomings are finally catching up to him.

 Sutter used him for only two minutes 46 seconds in Game 4 -- and that was at home where he can get the matchup he wants. If Commodore plays, Sutter probably will use him even less here in Tampa where the Lightning can take advantage of his skating deficiencies.

 It's also possible that Toni Lydman, one of the regulars Commodore replaced, will dress tonight.

 He has been skating hard and even if he's used only sparingly, he'd have more impact than Commodore, especially on the power play.

 Still another option would be to scratch forward Krzysztof Oliwa, who played just 2:26 on Monday, and go with seven defencemen.

 But you know this. No matter whom Sutter uses, they'll be giving their all.

 It's not a Game 7, but they'll be treating it like one.


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