CALGARY -- Canadian sunset?
If you believe in body language, it looked like a season setting in the foothills of the Rockies here last night as the last Canadian team still standing in the Stanley Cup playoffs was staggered by the San Jose Sharks.
Maybe what we're watching is the first seven-game series in history where the visiting team wins all seven games - but the Flames left the Saddledome reeling from a second-period Shark attack in a 4-2 loss.
A series tied 2-2 is hardly a reason to write a team off, especially a Calgary team which was 2-2 against Vancouver and 2-2 against Detroit.
But there was a press box full of people who left thinking what they watched here yesterday and the body language which went with it was telegraphing midnight for the Flames.
It hadn't happened until this point, but all of a sudden Calgary looked like Jarome Iginla and a bunch of Brand-X buddies again as Calgary stopped playing like they were going to manufacture the minor miracle to take them to the promised land where no Canadian team has gone since 1994.
Now 3-5 at home in the playoffs and having lost back-to-back games for the first time in the post-season, the Flames still have the road, where they are a remarkable 7-2. But the road comes at them fast with Game 5 in San Jose tonight.
"That's the good news," said coach Darryl Sutter. "We get to play again right away."
More good news was, with 40 seconds remaining in the game, Chris Simon scored on the power play. This was good news on two fronts, actually. It seemed like the first shift in the series in which Simon wasn't sent to the penalty box. And it ended a 0-25 run by the Calgary power play which hadn't scored since Game 3 of the Detroit series.
There was a lot of talk about going back to being the underdogs now, which is what the Flames had been until they took that 2-0 series lead in San Jose.
"We're disappointed we didn't make it 3-0 or 3-1. But we didn't expect it would be easy," said Iginla.
"We've got to go away and win one in a day. Now it's our turn to step up. It's a battle. And it should be a battle. It's the Western Conference final. But we believe in ourselves in here."
Shean Donovan said you don't wave the white flag now.
"This is a good group of guys. I think we'll regroup. We'll be all right."
Maybe. If they go down to San Jose tonight and score first ...
After a first period of scoreless chip-it-in, hack-it-back-out hockey, the Sharks took their first bite out of the Calgary carcass when Mike Rathje wired one from the deep slot through traffic at 2:40 of the second period. Bingo. Not only has the visiting team managed to win every game, but the team which has scored first has won every game.
In this one the Flames, who have had more than their fair share of the bounces this Stanley season, came up with another one in front of the net as Iginla scored to make it 1-1. But if this was the turning point of the series, what happened next turned it.
Miikka Kiprusoff, who is the No. 1 reason the Flames are here if Iginla isn't, turned into a pumpkin and allowed Jonathan Cheechoo to wrap one around the post. A minute and 39 seconds later Vinnie Damphousse scored on the power play resulting from a Robyn Regehr punch to the back of Todd Harvey's head with Calgary already a man short.
"This was Mikka's worst performance of the playoffs," said Sutter who gave him the hook after two periods.
And Regehr, who made Wayne Gretzky's Team Canada the day before, based on his play in the playoffs, didn't exactly get a rave review from his coach.
"My biggest concern was we had a couple of guys not playing very well tonight. Their guys on the back end were better than our guys on the back end tonight.
"Robyn and Jordan didn't play well tonight," he said of Regehr and Leopold. "The penalty Robyn took was a needless penalty. I think he was frustrated with his own game."
Team Canada selection Patrick Marleau, on the other hand, made it 4-1 before the end of the period and made Gretzky look good with a terrific game.
"Our team really showed the heart of a lion coming into a tough place and winning two games, one relatively convincingly," said Sharks coach Ron Wilson.
"It's back to Square 1," he added.
Funny how it's worked.
When Sutter brought his team home from San Jose up 2-0 in the series, he was being asked if he was concerned his hockey club might think they'd won the series.
Now he was being asked if he's concerned that they're headed to San Jose thinking they'd gassed it.
"I think this is a mirror image of Game 2. We had the same game tonight they had had in Game 2," he said of the 4-1 Calgary win.
At least Calgary fans didn't boo the Flames out of the building like Shark fans did after Game 2 in San Jose.
TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun
, Last Updated: 4:27 PM ET