Flames dare to dream

ERIC FRANCIS -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 12:28 PM ET


 DETROIT -- Amid the euphoria that swept the Flames dressing room and the streets of Calgary Monday night, surely there were those who sobered quickly when thinking about the Red Wings.

 Winners of the Presidents' Trophy and owners of the best team money can buy, fans and players alike can admit in the deep, dark recesses of their minds they worried the party of the decade would soon be over.

 They wanted to believe it would live on but most were scared to dream.

 Well, Calgarians can sleep a little better now.

 "This," started Flame Craig Conroy, eyes aglow, "gives us hope."

 Riding out a first-period storm in which the Flames tied a franchise record for playoff futility -- two shots on Curtis Joseph -- Miikka Kiprusoff turned aside 13 Motown bullets before the Flames could regroup.

 To the fans crammed into bars all over Calgary, their worst fears must have surfaced.

 "Maybe that first period scared them a little -- it scared us, too," admitted Conroy, buzzing from the turn of events that saw his club pull off the unlikeliest of 2-1 overtime wins at The Joe last night.

 "But Kipper was awesome and now maybe everybody in Calgary believes we can give this a real shot. You can ride a goalie a long way in the playoffs."

 No one has to tell that to the Detroit Red Wings, who saw a blueprint for a playoff upset drawn up against them last year by J-S Giguere's Mighty Ducks.

 Knowing the die had been cast against the same juggernaut they now faced, the Flames followed a script that saw Anaheim squeeze out a 3-2 triple overtime win to start the series sweep in Hockeytown a year ago.

 "Kipper was unbelievable," whispered Martin Gelinas, who set up the winning goal by Marcus Nilson.

 "We don't want to jinx anything, so we'll keep it quiet."

 Quiet was exactly how the Flames were in the opening 20 minutes when they were outhit, outskated and outplayed so badly the Wings had a least a half- dozen high-quality scoring chances.

 "That first period could have been game over but we weren't down because we were still in a good position," said Jarome Iginla of the scoreless opener.

 "The second period was a little more our style -- we didn't dominate or anything but we played a more grind-'em-out style hockey.

 "We've played in a lot of these type of (close, low-scoring) games."

 Eleven times, to be exact, Kiprusoff has backstopped the Flames to 2-1 wins this year.

 But none were bigger than last night, giving the visitors hope and confidence they could very well build on.

 "At this time, everybody believes that anybody can play with anybody and do not get here by not believing in themselves," downplayed Wings coach Dave Lewis, whose club was 0-for-6 on the powerplay, outshooting the visitors 29-18.

 "The game has to be played on the ice and you have to have passion, discipline and patience to find a way and we didn't do that."

 The Flames did, which explained why most in the Wings locker-room figured they played a pretty good game.

 "We faced a lot of great goaltending in Nashville, so we're familiar with it," said Kirk Maltby, whose first-period goal was waved off when linemate Kris Draper was whistled for goalie interference.

 "We knew they would get better as the game went on because they're a young group with young legs. We just needed some bounces."

 The Flames didn't get many of those. The biggest was the bounce in their step when Nilson roofed the winner early in OT.

 "We had confidence but the first game of the series is a huge win for us," said Iginla, held in check most of the night by Detroit's gritty Grind Line.

 "We'll try to have the same mindset for Game 2 as we did Game 1. Now hopefully all the excuses are gone and we can keep going."

 Suddenly, it's a notion that doesn't sound so outrageous.


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