Miikka steals Game 1

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 11:47 AM ET


 DETROIT -- Donning his John Deere hat and with Johnny Cash's Ring of Fire playing in the background, Marcus Nilson was the hero.

 He knew, however, who the real man of the hour was.

 It didn't matter Nilson scored the Calgary Flames' overtime winner, the key to victory was -- as usual -- goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff.

 "That's what he's here for, stopping the puck," Nilson said dryly before his tone turned serious. "You don't get used to (performances like that) but he does it every night."

 Yep, in the city where pizza is king, yet another Kipper Special was served fresh and hot last night in the Flames' 2-1 victory over the Detroit Red Wings.

 The win not only gave the Flames first blood in the best-of-seven Western Conference semifinal series, it's the first time they've won an opener since the 1989 Stanley Cup final of 1989.

 Game 2 is tomorrow afternoon in the Motor City.

 Wins with a 2-1 score may seem monotonous -- eight times it happened in the regular season and it's the third of the playoffs -- but nobody's going to complain in the Calgary dressing room.

 Especially with the way the unassuming netminder stole the show before the sellout Joe Louis Arena gathering of 20,066.

 The fully rested and highly potent Red Wings came out of the gates on fire and owned the first period. It may not seem possible but the opening frame was even more one-sided than the 13-2 shot clock read.

 Both of the Flames offerings toward Curtis Joseph were harmless, from Krzysztof Oliwa and Steve Montador.

 At the other end, Kiprusoff was under siege. Yet the opening period ended scoreless.

 "We got out of there thanks to Kipper," said Craig Conroy.

 "I was thinking, 'Holy cow, they're all over us.' It was pretty bad. They took it to us and we were very fortunate to come out of the first period because Miikka was Miikka again.

 "I watched a lot of Detroit's games against Nashville and their first periods were great. We've got to match their intensity in the first. We don't want to have to weather a storm like that every game. It's not good for us."

 But they did and despite falling behind midway through the second on a Robert Lang goal, Calgary bounced back, forced overtime thanks to a Robyn Regehr tally and completed the comeback when Nilson scored 2:39 into the extra period.

 Nilson collected his first career playoff goal because Martin Gelinas beat both Mathieu Dandenault and Jiri Fischer for a puck deep in Wings territory and fed a perfect pass to him in the slot. Nilson flipped a top-corner offering by Joseph.

 "The puck was standing up there and that's probably why it went in. I just tried to go high," Nilson said. "It was a great feeling to see it go in."

 And it gives the Flames hope.

 "We knew we were going to be tired, I think that showed," said GM/head coach Darryl Sutter. "But at the same time, we showed the grit to hang in there in the first period.

 "Then doing what we always do -- dig down and fight back. Some time you're going to play against stars that are older than you but you have to find a way to earn your respect and many of those young guys did that starting with tonight."


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