Kips 'n' robbers

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 10:57 AM ET


 SAN JOSE -- Steve Montador a hero.

 Even he couldn't fathom it.

 Heck, the Flames defenceman couldn't even picture himself an overtime star in his own dreams.

 Asked if he'd ever scored an overtime winner before yesterday's tally gave the Calgary Flames first blood in their Western Conference final series, the defenceman admitted he had.

 Then he added it wasn't in a real game.

 "Either in my head or on the pond," he said, "where everyone dreams of being Wayne Gretzky."

 That taste of what it's like to be No. 99 came true when the defensive defenceman -- often a healthy scratch during the season who would joke he was a secret weapon to be unveiled when the time was right -- tallied with slightly more than a minute remaining in the extra session to give the Flames a 4-3 victory over the San Jose Sharks.

 "It's just great to be part of a team that's done well so far and has higher goals and wants to achieve things," he said, embarrassed by the limelight. "To be able to contribute, I think that's what every player's goal is.

 "Certainly, that's how I feel right now."

 With both teams in a state of chaos while changing lines, Montador was a late trailer on a rush and was busy slamming his stick to the ice as a means to beckon for a back pass from Jarome Iginla.

 Given the biscuit and all the time and space in the world to make his move, the rearguard neatly slipped a blocker-side wrister past Sharks goalie Evgeni Nabokov and stunned the sellout gathering of 17,496 at the HP Pavilion.

 "It was slow motion," said Iginla.

 "It felt like he had that puck on his stick for five seconds, coming in as we were watching, waiting to see him make his move. That's a pretty exciting position to be in, coming in on the goalie, but he showed a lot of composure and buried it."

 Calgary, which hadn't won in San Jose since January of 2001, will go for the road sweep when the best-of-seven series continues tomorrow night.

 All those storylines -- Darryl Sutter facing the club that fired him a year and a half ago, Miikka Kiprusoff trying to oust the team that found him expendable early this season -- were put on the back burner when the puck finally dropped and ended with the unlikeliest of heroes coming through with the big goal.

 Montador's teammates were thrilled for the blueliner.

 "He just moved in with me, got him under my wing and he's maturing into a good player," fellow defenceman Rhett Warrener said before breaking into laughter. "He works hard and he deserves it. He's probably the hardest-working player on our team."

 Added Chris Simon: "It's great to see Monty chip in. He doesn't get much opportunity and works his (butt) off every day. When I got here, I was kinda wondering why he doesn't play more because I know playing against him, he's a real competitor and has great hands. I'm really glad for him right now."

 And glad to have ensured the Flames gain at least a road split, something they accomplished in the first two series.

 "I would bet it's easier to win the first game in this building than it would be Game 7," Sutter said.

 It was hardly easy.

 They needed Kiprusoff to block

 49 of the shots sent his way.

 They needed Krzysztof Oliwa and Craig Conroy to score first-period goals and Conroy to net another early in the third period to restore a lead lost because of middle-frame tallies from Mike Ricci and Todd Harvey.

 They needed to regroup after Alexander Korolyuk tied it again late in the third. They needed to solve Nabokov, no slouch himself, turning in a 33-save performance.

 Honestly, the Flames needed to steal back a game that appeared lost on a couple of occasions.

 "Well, we won it, so we'll take it. It doesn't matter how," Warrener said.

 "There were some ugly plays, really nice plays but, at the end of the night, it's a win and that's what matters."

 Now it's the Sharks, who've skated with relative ease in their first two rounds, looking to regroup.

 "It's only Game 1, so we're not really frustrated yet," said San Jose's Scott Thornton. "We're pretty happy with a lot of things we did ... It's going to be a great series."


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