Momentum's overrated

TODD SAELHOF -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 5:06 PM ET


  OK, so maybe the Calgary Flames have been right all along.

 Momentum is just an eight-letter word.

 The Flames have given the phrase little value, particularly in these playoffs.

 Game 5 was certainly an illustration of its worth -- or lack thereof.

 The Flames stared down every notion of Big 'Mo' yesterday in Motown.

 Few Flames fans, even among the very faithful, gave their hockey heroes much of a chance to roll out of Joe Louis Arena with the Game 5 victory.

 Certainly not with the kind of victory they garnered.

 A win at The Joe is rare -- unless, of course, you're the Detroit Red Wings.

 A shutout victory is extremely rare -- unless, of course, you're the Detroit Red Wings.

 And given the Red Wings' road win in Game 4, a shutout win in Hockeytown truly seemed to be a longshot -- the safe money on yesterday's hosts.

 Indeed, it seemed heading back to Detroit, all the momentum was squarely in the Wings' corner.

 Detroit gained a 2-0 lead in Game 4 and appeared to have the game firmly in control.

 Then after allowing two Flames goals in 18 seconds and relying on goaltender Curtis Joseph to bail them out on a 2-on-1 save off Shean Donovan, the Wings looked as if they woke up to realize their own potential.

 They took over the rest of the game, using experience to shake off the Flames' rally, and skated away with a win.

 And with it came the return of confidence and a swagger many fans associate with the Red Wings, winners of three Stanley Cups in the last seven seasons.

 Certainly, the Ville Nieminen hit-and-run on Joseph late in the game didn't help the Flames' cause.

 Nieminen's delivery of the elbow to Joseph's head didn't do its intended job -- that is, to get under the skin of the Wings goaltender, who quickly shrugged off the incident as "part of the game."

 So there the Red Wings were, headed back to Detroit with history on their side, the pesky Nieminen on the sidelines and back at home in The Joe where few visitors dare to fly high, let alone triumph in shutout fashion. Especially in the playoffs.

 Game and series, right? No.

 The resilient Flames took away whatever momentum was owned by the hosts early in Game 5.

 While the Red Wings can take the blame for failing to take advantage of their position -- their half-dozen own-zone and neutral-zone giveaways in the first period were astonishing -- the Flames can take full credit for an inspired start many thought should have been reserved for the Red Wings.

 And they rode it to the 1-0 win -- an unlikely second victory at The Joe in this series. It's only the ninth loss suffered there by the Wings all season but three have come courtesy of the Flames.

 Wow ...

 "Certainly it's nicer to go back with a 3-2 lead than down 3-2," said Craig Conroy, the afternoon's offensive hero with the only goal of Game 5.

 "But it's not over yet."

 Nope, this series certainly isn't.

 Game 6 tomorrow at the 'Dome and, if necessary, Game 7 on Wednesday at The Joe are still to come. And make no mistake about it, they take on very distinct lives of their own.

 Don't expect what transpired in Game 5 to carry over into tomorrow's possible series-clincher.

 Certainly the Flames won't expect it.

 They know full well there is no momentum. They've said it all along.


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