Men behaving badly

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 12:44 PM ET


 VANCOUVER -- In the early afternoon, Darryl Sutter was praising his team's discipline.

 The Flames GM/head coach, knowing how potent the Vancouver Canucks powerplay could be if given too many chances, was comforted by the fact his club wasn't known for putting itself in shorthanded situations.

 By nightfall, that had all changed.

 Perhaps it was the excitement of the playoff opener.

 Perhaps it was the fact nine Flames skated in their first post-season clash.

 Perhaps it was just brainlock.

 Whatever the reason, the Flames put themselves in a hole thanks to penalties, miraculously climbed out only to start digging again en route to dropping their playoff opener 5-3 last night at GM Place.

 "I'm not questioning the officiating at all," Sutter said.

 "Four were obstruction penalties. We've got a fast team.

 "In the neutral zone, we don't have to obstruct."

 The second match in the best-of-seven series goes tomorrow in Vancouver.

 Through the regular season, the Canucks powerplay wasn't brilliant, especially down the stretch.

 But last night it clicked on four occasions and tallied another time while the goalie was pulled on a delayed penalty to spoil the Flames first playoff game since 1996.

 "It wasn't our game at all. We didn't play nearly good enough," said Flames captain Jarome Iginla.

 "Maybe we were waiting to see what a playoff game was like and, I'll tell you, it's not that much different.

 "It's still hockey. We still have to do what was successful for us earlier and that's strong defence, play with discipline, have a good (penalty kill).

 "That wasn't the way we can play."

 With the sellout gathering of 18,630 already whipped into a frenzy, powerplay tallies by Martin Rucincky and Sami Salo put the hosts up by a pair before the five-minute mark.

 Calgary's Ville Nieminen, parked in the sin bin, had a front-row seat for both.

 Calgary regrouped thanks to a couple of powerplay goals of its own 28 seconds apart from Chris Simon and Oleg Saprykin early in the second frame.

 But a continuing inability to kill penalties ended up costing Calgary the game.

 Henrik Sedin netted the go-ahead goal with the man-advantage and Mattias Ohlund added the game-winner.

 The capper came when Nieminen was again in the box early in the third period for an infraction that led to a Brendan Morrison goal.

 "We kept it simple," said Morrison, who also had a pair of assists.

 "Our D men did a great job of getting pucks on net, screens and rebounds.

 "We played with a lot of confidence on the powerplay, which makes a big difference. We were composed."

 Canucks captain Markus Naslund was happy his team drew first blood.

 "It's a good win for us," said Naslund, who had three assists.

 "We wanted to get the first win here early and not have the kind of stuff we had last year when we lost the first game.

 "That was good. It's one game but we need three more wins."

 Krzysztof Oliwa rounded out the scoring with the lone even-strength goal of the contest.

 "I thought it was NHL playoffs but it turned out to be a powerplay contest," Nieminen said.

 "I hope next game we can play five-on-five like hockey is supposed to be played."

 Which would suit the Flames just fine, Iginla said.

 "All year we've been a very strong five-on-five team," he stated.

 "Tonight we didn't give ourselves a chance in that area. Sure, we got a couple of powerplay goals but that's not our game."

 Miikka Kiprusoff stopped only 17 shots in the Flames net while Dan Cloutier blocked 26 for the win.

 There was some bad blood at the end of the game when Cloutier, whose crease was regularly crashed during the game, swung his stick and exchanged pleasantries at Flames forward Marcus Nilson.


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