Calgary-bound Red Wings feeling the heat

JIM KERNAGHAN -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 5:07 PM ET


  As story lines go, it was compelling -- player shakes off major surgery, sheds business suit for hockey togs and helps underdog team to a resounding victory.

 Stand-in winger Dave Lowry didn't figure in the goal the Calgary Flames scored in their 1-0 victory over the Detroit Red Wings yesterday afternoon, but he didn't have to. His presence boosted his mates and pretty well underlined the gritty Flames' approach to the fifth game of their series against the Wings.

 His first game in four months "epitomizes what the Flames are all about," manager/coach Darryl Sutter said after his team shut the Red Wings out for the first time in seven years and 52 playoff games.

 A one-game suspension to Calgary's Ville Nieminen for running Detroit goalie Curtis Joseph the previous game was supposed to energize the Wings.

 Instead, his replacement fired up the Flames.

 Former London Knight Lowry, who last played in early January, underwent a complicated procedure for a torn stomach muscle. He spent the past six games assisting behind the Calgary bench while taking regular workouts for almost two months.

 "I just tried to keep it simple," the 39-year-old veteran said.

 "It was pretty exciting. I've had injuries before but they've been at the end of the year. I was hoping a chance would come to get in again, and today was the day. I've been in the locker room the past six weeks, but it's different being in a suit than having your gear on."

 Goal-scorer Craig Conroy, who pounced on a Jiri Fischer miscue to score at 16:07 of the second period, summed up his teammates' views.

 "Last night he was saying he wasn't going to play," Conroy said. "Next thing you know, he comes in and he's playing. What can you say? He's a warrior."

 Not only did Detroit lose the critical fifth game but their own spiritual leader was sidelined.

 Captain Steve Yzerman was struck in the face by a shot not long before the Flames goal and was taken to hospital for X-rays.

 The Flames established the tempo early and maintained it most of the way, hemming the Wings in their end and consistently forcing giveaways on breakouts. Quicker to the puck and with considerably more skating jump, the younger team made the less-agile Wings like Darian Hatcher and Fischer look even more ponderous than they already are.

 The Wings, usually a handful on power plays, came up empty on five extra-man opportunities that never really got into any kind of rhythm.

 Lowry, who contributed 22 shifts during the game, unleashed a series of shots that underlined the utter disarray into which the Wings had fallen.

 While down on the ice beside the Detroit goal, he got off a shot, then another when he arose to one knee before a Detroit checker arrived.

 For all that, Detroit managed to mount a furious attempt to connect for a tying goal in the late stages but Flames goalie Miikko Kiprusoff, who showed a few cracks in Detroit's 4-2 win Thursday, was solid in the face of the onslaught, stopping 31 Detroit shots.

 Now, the Wings are faced with upsetting odds that show the team winning the fifth game in an even playoff goes on to win 80 per cent of the time.

 And it appears they're going to have to do it without Yzerman.

 Sutter, though, continues to refer to his team as underdogs. He managed to toss a few broadsides at the officiating regarding penalties afterward.

 "They were all very marginal calls at best . . . we know what we are up against; we're not just playing Detroit.

 "There are things we have to deal with in terms of risks discussing the officiating."

 Down three games to two going back to the Flames' cauldron tomorrow night, Detroit has much more than that to handle.


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