Flames bolt out of gate

AL STRACHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 3:22 PM ET


 It's a truism in the regular season but it's an absolute necessity for success in the Stanley Cup final.

 Your best players have to be your best players.

 So when Jarome Iginla produced another superb game and goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff sparkled in the nets, it came as no surprise that the Calgary Flames defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning in the series opener last night.

 The 4-1 score might have been unexpected, but as the Flames' Craig Conroy said: "It was far from being a 4-1 game. That was just the way it worked out.

 "But it's good to start on the road and once you get that good feeling with a win on the road, you're saying, 'Hey, let's get the next one and go home.' "

 The concensus turning point -- in both dressing rooms -- was Iginla's short-handed goal late in the second period.

 The Lightning, trailing 1-0 at the time, sent the puck back to the point, but it bounced over Freddy Modin's stick.

 It had been the hope of the Flames that they could get Iginla loose on a forward during a power play. This was even better. The forward was behind the play and Iginla had a clean breakaway from the blue line in.

 Nikolai Khabibulin, who could not be faulted in the least for the result last night, made a fine save -- as he had on an earlier short-handed Iginla break.

 But Iginla had the presence of mind to put on the brakes, come back out front, grab his own rebound and tuck it home.

 "It was great to see it go in," Iginla said. "I knew it was going to be a breakaway, and I went in there and I had a lot of time to think about it. I was trying to go top corner but Khabibulin made a great glove save.

 "I could see it go up in the air. I stopped to watch it. I thought it might roll in. But I was thrilled when I saw I was going to have another chance. Usually you don't get two chances and it was nice to see it cross the line."

 Flames coach Darryl Sutter conceded Iginla's goal was key.

 "That short-handed goal was the difference for us," he said. "One goal obviously wasn't going to be enough to finish the game, that's for sure. You could tell the way it was going. That was a huge goal."

 Tampa captain Dave Andreychuk agreed.

 "You give up a chance and it ends up in the back of your net," he said. "It's tough to bounce back from."

 The Flames had a bit of luck on their side when they opened the scoring in the first period.

 Conroy won a faceoff in the Tampa end and the puck went back to Andrew Ference on the point. With not much else to do, he shot it toward the net where it bounced off Andreychuk and the back of Martin Gelinas' skate before dribbling over the line.

 Iginla's goal clearly deflated the Lightning and fewer than three minutes later, their minds elsewhere, they gave up another one.

 Dan Boyle had no support behind his net, despite the presence of two Flames. Stephane Yelle took the puck, moved out in front and snapped a shot over Khabibulin's shoulder.

 That gave Calgary more than enough of a cushion.

 Early in the third period, Martin St. Louis got the Lightning on the board when he poked home a rebound during a power play.

 But the Lightning could do no more, and in the final minute, with the Lightning two men short, Chris Simon finished the scoring.

 Meanwhile, all night long, Kiprusoff was steady at the other end. The Lightning had plenty of chances, but Kiprusoff stood his ground and gave them little to shoot at.

 And when both Iginla and Kiprusoff are playing well, the Flames are very tough to beat.

 Very, very tough.


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