Goal was long time coming

ERIC FRANCIS -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 3:17 PM ET


 TAMPA -- In terms of both time and distance it was, without question, the longest breakaway in Stanley Cup history.

 Kids on the Rideau Canal don't have breakaways that drawn out.

 With the Flames clinging to a 1-0 lead and Tampa Bay's vaunted powerplay pressing hard, Jarome Iginla suddenly found himself on a journey that started at the top of his own faceoff circle and ended with the Flames cementing the opening game of the Stanley Cup final.

 Corralling a bouncing puck that skipped over the blade of pinching forward-turned-point man Fredrik Modin, the Flames captain looked up to see nothing but 150 ft. of mushy white ice ahead of him.

 Pushing the puck well ahead while 21,674 bronzed locals wearing Bermuda shorts and looks of confusion wondered where everyone else went, Iginla crossed his own blueline with Modin giving chase.

 Digging deep into ice as soft as the Sedins, Iginla caught up to the puck around centre as Lightning fan Hulk Hogan finished sewing the t-shirt he ripped off during puck drop and Phil Esposito regaled dozens with stories about the time he signed Manon Rheaume.

 Right around the time Iginla crossed the Tampa blueline, ESPN opted to cut briefly to the Westminster Dog Show AND the Akron Mug Buggy 500 to double ratings. Word is it worked.

 Following a short public-service announcement from Gary Bettman insisting the new CBA could be ratified by the time Iginla shoots the puck, Iginla steadied the puck at the top of the circle while Sharks coach Ron Wilson phoned the NHL radio booth from a San Jose golf course to call the breakaway "a black eye for hockey."

 Looking up briefly at the top corner he'd soon snap the puck towards, Iginla heard former Lightning owner Art Williams scream down for the "Michael Jordan of hockey" to "stuff him." Vincent Lecavalier did nothing, as he was too busy listening to Espo fishing tales.

 On the Lightning bench, John Tortorella pulled out his laptop to re-draw the blueprints of a powerplay that was effective 30% of the time against Philly and was supposed to bury the Flames.

 After contemplating how many syllables were in "Nikolai Khabibulin," Iginla snapped a rocket from the hash marks that was snatched from the air by the Russian netminder. The crowd made like Warren Sapp and screamed incoherently as Iginla quickly grabbed the rebound at the side of the net while the Floridians were left hanging like a bad chad. Dancing a few feet from the back boards, Iginla turned and slid the puck into the net from a bad angle as Khabibulin dove in vain.

 Before you could say Ruslan Fedotenko, the Flames were up 2-0, laying a cushy foundation for a plucky third-period forecheck that was Tampa's undoing all night in a 4-1 loss.

 "Man, that breakaway felt like 40 seconds," said Craig Conroy.

 Added Iginla: "It felt long and I was scared to look back because I thought (Modin) would catch me. It was tiring and I had a lot of time to think about it."

 The Lightning now has some time to think about a powerplay that accounted for its only goal but was simply outplayed by Calgary's penalty killers.

 Calgary's designated time-wasters generated more shots and scoring chances on the penalty kill than the Lightning's powerplay did. Both units had a goal, with Iginla's the obvious turning point.

 "We have a chance to make it 1-1 and Freddy whiffs on the puck," said Tortorella. "That's the game right there."

 Trot out all the stats you want -- including the one that shows the winner of Game 1 in the finals ends up claiming the Cup 78.5% of the time -- but stats are obviously for losers.

 Just ask the Lightning powerplay unit, which, at last word, is still trying to chase down Iginla.


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