Flames one win away

AL STRACHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 12:25 PM ET


 Going into overtime last night, you got the feeling that the Stanley Cup was riding on the next goal.

 Whether it was or not, we'll find out tomorrow night when the Calgary Flames, who now hold a 3-2 lead in the final, will have a chance to finish off the Tampa Bay Lightning.

 On the balance of last night's play, the Flames deserved to win the game. But that has been the case before in games they lost.

 "You're not going to win Game 5 in the final playing 40 minutes like we played (last night)," said Lightning coach John Tortorella. "It simply comes back and grabs you."

 There was no denying the Flames.

 They scored the opening goal, lost the lead, took it back, and then lost it again before finally getting the winner from Oleg Saprykin at 14:40 of overtime.

 There had been chances at both ends, but on this occasion the Flames established a lengthy siege in the Lightning end.

 Jarome Iginla got his helmet knocked off in a scrum behind the net but kept battling, as did linemates Saprykin and Marcus Nilson.

 "I lost my helmet there in front and I stayed out," said Iginla. "I thought it was a good chance to score

 "I tried to jam away and got pushed down from behind. I didn't know where the puck went, but Nilson kept it alive."

 The Flames continued the cycle with the Lightning trying desperately -- but to no avail -- to get possession. Eventually, it came back out in front and Iginla had broken free.

 "Nilson made a great pass," Iginla said. "He was going to shoot it but he saw me there."

 So Nilson made the pass to Iginla, who took the shot from the deep slot.

 "Olie was banging away in front," Iginla said. "He deserved that goal. He played so hard all night and it was great to see him get that goal."

 Saprykin returned the compliment.

 "It was a great play by Jarome," he said. "Jarome shot the puck and I just tried to get a rebound to put in."

 That's exactly what he did, staying vertical despite the best attempts of the Lightning defencemen, and jamming the puck between the legs of Nikolai Khabibulin.

 "It's a great feeling," said Saprykin. "It's a great thing for every guy in that room. Everybody worked so hard. The guys deserved it. We just tried to stay for each other."

 BLOWN CHANCE?

 On a number of occasions, it seemed that the Flames might have blown their chance. They outplayed the Lightning by a sizable margin in the first two periods, but Khabibulin refused to let them build a two-goal lead.

 They had defenceman Toni Lydman back in the lineup for the first time since April 10, and he got them off to a good start, firing an intentionally wide shot that Martin Gelinas was able to redirect into the net.

 But Martin St. Louis tied it with an ugly goal that dribbled between Miikka Kirpusoff's legs, then was almost pushed out by Rhett Warrener.

 But Kiprusoff was falling backward at the time and the puck hit his leg and dribbled into the net

 Khabibulin continued to be brilliant, stopping shot after shot. Finally, on one of their least-dangerous opportunities, the Flames beat him.

 Iginla came down the right side and let go a wrist shot from the hash marks near the boards that clanked off the post and in.

 But in the third period, the vaunted Lightning power play went to work. Fredrik Modin scored six seconds after Warrener was sent off.

 But the Flames refused to die and now they're one win away from the Stanley Cup.

 And if you believe in precedents, you should know that the first four games had been split 18 times in previous Stanley Cup finals.

 The Game 5 winner won the Cup in 14 instances.


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