His coach said Jordan Leopold wasn't "maxing out" in Games 1 and 2 but it was the words of teammates that fired up the Flames defenceman.
"We're a team. We're not going to harp on anybody. They're going to try to lift you up. That's been happening in our locker-room ever since the start of the playoffs, ever since the start of the season," Leopold pointed out after yesterday's optional skate, his improved play helping the Flames take a 2-1 edge in the Stanley Cup final against Tampa Bay.
"One guy has a rough game and the other guys try to pump him up and get him going. It's a simple philosophy -- you don't want to beat anybody down."
While struggling in the opening two games of the series, Leopold saw his ice-time diminish, leading to coach Darryl Sutter publicly criticizing him. But in Game 3, Leopold played with "a little edge" from the opening shift and saw his workload skyrocket to 24 minutes while also assisting on the game-winning goal. Sutter called it Leopold's best game of the playoffs.
Leopold's improved play also earned him regular turns on the powerplay and penalty kill. The former Hobey Baker Award winner out of the University of Minnesota said he knew he was ready from the opening faceoff.
"(Saturday) night from the first shift, I had a little edge and just got into it right away," Leopold said.
The 2003-04 season was his first full year in the NHL and first Stanley Cup playoff experience. He and Sutter had a frank chat the night before the game, with the coach expressing his high expectations.
"He's been honest with me my whole career here," Leopold said.
"I know last year was an interesting time for me. He pushed me hard last year and it was to make me a better player.
"The first couple of games in the series, I wasn't that good and Darryl and I talked and he talked to the media as well.
"But in the end, it comes down to the player, not the coach or teammates, it comes down to individuals to find it within yourself to be prepared and ready to battle."
Leo's best game
DAN TOTH -- Calgary Sun
, Last Updated: 12:58 PM ET