Flames abandoned ship

ERIC FRANCIS -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 12:45 PM ET


 VANCOUVER -- They got here by being physical, they got here by being disciplined and they got here with tremendous defence.

 Last night the Calgary Flames abandoned all three facets of their game plan, allowing the Vancouver Canucks to employ all the same tactics that landed the visitors in their first playoff series in eight years.

 Out-hit, out-chanced, outclassed and outscored, the Flames allowed Vancouver to draw first blood with a 5-3 win at GM Place.

 If the Flames keep it up, it won't be long before they're out, period.

 "The big thing with us is not to be too nervous," said Flames coach Darryl Sutter hours before last night's series opener.

 "The big thing is to keep it simple -- do what you do, do it well and do it within the rules."

 Whether it was nerves, overzealousness, stupidity or shockingly tight officiating, Ville Nieminen played Villain Nieminen for the Flames by taking two silly penalties in the first five minutes that allowed the Canucks to capitalize on their two opening powerplays. The first was a beautiful tip off a point shot from Martin Rucinsky two-and-a-half minutes in and the second a blueline blast from Sami Salo that Miikka Kiprusoff never saw because both Ed Jovanovski and Rucinsky crowded the front of the net.

 Continually refusing to finish their checks, the Flames were badly out-hit the rest of the stanza.

 The Flames' first sign of life came early in the second following a stunning Kiprusoff glove save off Mike Keane. That was followed by a too-many-men penalty the Canucks dearly paid for.

 Just 28 seconds after Simon banged a quirky bounce off the end boards into an open net, Oleg Saprykin's hard work paid off by driving to the net and jamming another powerplay marker through Dan Cloutier's legs. If only for a spell, 18,000 white towels were hidden, clutched a little tighter as the Flames controlled the play by briefly returning to the physical game they thrive on.

 That all ended when Henrik Sedin banked a powerplay goal off Jordan Leopold's skate and Ohlund found an open net during a delayed penalty call against Krys Oliwa for crashing Cloutier's crease one too many times.

 Nieminen struck again early in the third, completing a hat-trick of penalties converted into Canucks goals, thanks to Brendan Morrison's highlight-reel deke on the sprawling Kiprusoff.

 All told, the Canucks were 4-for-6 with the man advantage, the other goal also coming with an extra attacker.

 Although pressing hard, the Flames squandered a two-man advantage late in the third with few challenges.

 The best Flames player on the ice all night was Saprykin, who scored once and had the most inspiring play all night despite being saddled alongside Oliwa and Kobasew, who also worked hard.

 Jarome Iginla and his top line was stymied all night by a typically effective effort by Ohlund, who tactfully wrapped up the Flames captain every chance he got. The few times Iginla wrangled free in the offensive zone to get perimeter shots, Ohlund was on the bench.

 By night's end, it was apparent to all fans on hand the Flames were not only out of their element on the night, they were out of their league.


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