Gelly jams winner

ERIC FRANCIS -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 3:02 PM ET


 Pulled every which way for interviews, hugs, handshakes, back slaps and the odd kiss, Martin Gelinas was stopped and asked if he had the rubber memento commemorating his achievement.

 "Uh, no," said the hero of the hour.

 "I was mugged."

 It wasn't so much a mugging as it was a mauling, preceded by his dramatic overtime goal with 46.9 ticks left in the first overtime period.

 Standing in the paint where seconds earlier his battered carcass was pancaked, Gelinas batted in a puck much the same way he did two weeks earlier in Vancouver.

 This one sent the league's best team home for good with a 1-0 loss.

 Both came in overtime, both knocked out his team's opponents and both will be catalogued as two of the greatest moments in Flames lore.

 Add that to his game-winner against Toronto two years earlier as a Hurricane and Gelinas has disposed of more teams than Gary Bettman.

 "We're going to start calling him The Eliminator," laughed linemate Jarome Iginla, unable to wipe the grin from his mug.

 "Eliminator, Closer ... I don't know which one I like better," pondered Craig Conroy, whose initial shot down low caused the juicy rebound off a game Curtis Joseph.

 "I haven't had much time to think about it."

 Granted, after almost four full periods of brilliantly entertaining hockey, there hadn't been much time to do anything but react the way overtime winners do -- like children.

 "That's a feeling you think of as a child -- that crowd ... awesome ... it was incredible out there," said Iginla, who was the first man Gelinas turned to when the ecstatic hero needed someone to squeeze in victory.

 "Gelly does everything hard. He's all about hard work. If you're a young guy in this league, he's a guy to watch."

 The Flames youngsters surrounding Gelinas almost didn't get that chance as the veteran's name was bandied about during the pre-season as perhaps a spare part too costly to keep around. However, he earned every dime of his pay from the day he checked in as the fittest Flame to last night's historic effort.

 "Maybe it's the guys I'm playing with," said Gelinas when asked to describe why he's been so magical in extra time.

 "The guys (Iginla and Conroy) keep putting pucks to the net and I'm in the right place at the right time. It was an open net and I didn't want to miss it. I whacked at it pretty hard."

 As the players replayed the game in their minds for reporters, owners and friends, talk always turned to the crowd -- a bunch that was rewarded in one fell swoop with a celebration that won't end for days, or weeks.

 "You know what's best about it -- to win the series in front of them," said coach Darryl Sutter.

 The fans who partied into the night will now get several more chances to cheer on their boys as conference finalist for the first time since '89.

 "There's four teams left," stated president Ken King, shaking his head.

 "And we're (one) of 'em."

 That the Flames now get to sit back and watch San Jose and Colorado battle it out in Game 6 tonight is a huge reward for the players. The fans' reward, well, it started three weeks ago.

 "We get to keep playing," said Conroy in disbelief. "This is a dream come true for a lot of guys in here. It really is."

 No one more than Iginla, who slugged it out with the fans for seven years without playoff hockey.

 "This makes up for all that," said Iginla, dismissing seven years of anguish and frustration.

 "I appreciate it more than I would've any other way."

 So do the fans.


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