Fuel on fire

TODD SAELHOF -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 5:06 PM ET

 For the most part, the Calgary Flames downplayed the importance of the late-stage fireworks of Game 3.

 But make no mistake, the brouhaha should prove beneficial for the team.

  After all, emotional hockey has been a hallmark of the Flames since they opened the NHL playoffs. Heck, it's been at the heart of their attack since long before the post-season and, actually, well before the stretch run.

 Their spirit and fight has fuelled them to victory over the Vancouver Canucks and Detroit Red Wings in these playoffs. And just when they seemed to be snoozing Thursday night -- and perhaps headed in the wrong direction against the San Jose Sharks -- it was Chris Simon stepping up to provide the spark that is likely to carry over into Game 4 today at the Saddledome (2 p.m., CBC).

 "We're an emotional team," said Flames defenceman Andrew Ference. "We don't rely on the fancier aspects of the game. We rely on the tough, grittier aspects of hockey. Being physical and being emotional is all part of the way the Calgary Flames have success. We realize that. We know that without that, we're not going to go places.

 "That's the kind of battle we need to have. And if the other team doesn't want to play that way, that's when we try to force them to do it."

 The Sharks don't want to play that way. Or, at least, head coach Ron Wilson would rather them stay true to the system that pushed them to a second-place finish in the Western Conference and into this conference final series. That system doesn't require the physicality the Flames thrive on.

 Wilson was certainly unimpressed with Simon's so-called thuggery at the end of Game 3 and trotted out the 'black eye for hockey' remark.

 "That's not a black eye for hockey. That is hockey," Ference said. "That's the sport that we play. If you want a sport without emotion -- where people have complete respect for each other -- then you go play pool or something like that. Anybody who can't respect that part of the game shouldn't be in the game. That's part of our sport. Emotions are high out there. People watch it for its intensity. And guys like us play it because we like that intensity."

 They just didn't do it enough in Game 3 to deserve the victory.

 "No emotion, no emotion," said feisty Flames forward Ville Nieminen. "San Jose wanted it more (Thursday) night. We were very ordinary, very sloppy, very flat. We didn't deserve to win."

 "We're out there competing," said defenceman Jordan Leopold, one of the more reserved Flames. "We want to win games. We're out there working as hard as we can. We want to set the tone."

 They did just that at the end of Game 3. If Wilson and the Sharks don't like it, well, it's not something the Flames are bound to let them forget.

 "Not this team," Ference said. 'This team loves that physical challenge. I think that's one of the good things we've done -- if we do lose, we lose with fight. That doesn't mean going out and being stupid. That means through the whole course of the game, at least you don't just keel over and play dead. You go down swinging.

 "You're not going to win every game but the ones you lose, you want to make sure the other team feels like they've been in a hockey game."


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