One Lightning strike is enough

AL STRACHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 12:08 PM ET

 Give a team like the Tampa Bay Lightning a full two minutes of five-on-three and it's almost an automatic goal.

 So when the Calgary Flames got dinged for coincidental minors only 1:52 in the game, the script appeared to be written.

 It seemed almost certain that the Lightning would get the first goal and, in accordance with the well established late-playoff trend, they'd therefore win.

 That's exactly what happened. For the fourth time in four games, the team that scored first won.

 That goal, scored at 2:48, stood up all night as the Lightning won 1-0 to tie the Stanley Cup final at 2-2.

 It was easily the most controversy-ridden game of the series.

 Coincidental minors are not common at this stage of the season and the Flames did not like that call, one that was almost certain to be decisive.

 "The only goal is scored two minutes in on a five-on-three," said Flames coach Darryl Sutter. "What is a penalty in the second shift is not a penalty in the first shift. A penalty in the second shift is not a penalty in the third period. Whatever."

 Then, with 4:13 left in the game, Calgary's Ville Nieminen ran Vincent Lecavalier into the glass from behind and was assessed a major penalty, thereby all but negating any hope of a late tying goal by the Flames.

 The Lightning thought the call was a good one. The Flames did not.

 "I was just finishing my check," said Nieminen.

 "Definitely a penalty," said Sutter. "It's called a five-minute penalty because they react to the player going down. It's a two-minute penalty."

 It was the Flames' contention that the Lightning, specifically Darryl Sydor, told Lecavalier to stay down to try to get a major called.

 Sydor said he did indeed tell Lecavalier to stay down, but for his safety, not to get a call. He said that Lecavalier was dazed and bleeding and under those circumstances any injured player should stay on the ice.

 Tampa coach John Tortorella, displaying his usual lack of social skills, said: "I think you saw the play. I don't need to say anything about it."

 As for the game itself, the Flames felt they outplayed the Lightning for the majority of the evening. And they did.

 That's why the loss was even harder to take than usual.

 "This one hurt," said Flames captain Jarome Iginla. "This is hard to take. Were they that good? We outshot them and they had more power plays than us."

 Lightning captain Dave Andreychuk put it this way: "We got the win. I don't think we played our best. We would have liked to have played in their end a little more as the game went on.

 Said Tortorella: "It was ugly as hell but we found a way."

 Goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin had a lot to do with it. The Flames shot wide on a lot of good opportunities, but when they didn't Khabibulin was equal to the task.

 And then there was Brad Richards, who scored the only goal.

 There was nothing particularly fancy about the play. With the two-man advantage, the Lightning had little trouble playing keep-away for a while, and finally Richards took a shot with traffic in front and it beat Miikka Kiprusoff cleanly.

 "When you get a shot at the top of the circle in the wheelhouse," said Richards, "you have to do something with it.

 "I had already taken two shots that I'd done nothing with and I kept creeping in. I didn't really want to put it there because I know he has a good glove hand.

 "But that's where the lane was, so I just put my head down and shot it as hard as I could."

 And as it turned out, that was the game.