CHICAGO -- Was it goaltender interference?
Mike Keenan sure thinks so.
The Calgary Flames head coach had a bone to pick with the officials after Martin Havlat's game-winning goal a dozen seconds into overtime to give the Chicago Blackhawks a 3-2 win and first blood in the best-of-seven playoff series last night.
"I believe it was (Andrew) Ladd who did not try to stop his movement towards the net, and that's goaltender interference," Keenan said. "However, the officials either saw it differently or didn't make the call, because in the excitement of overtime that's always part of the issue."
Seemingly in the blink of an eye, the Hawks came down the ice, and while Ladd was tangled with Jordan Leopold, they contacted Flames netminder Miikka Kiprusoff in his crease.
Havlat fired a long shot for his second goal of the game to the delight of the frenzied United Center throng of 22,478.
"I don't know if he got pushed or not, probably you guys saw a replay, but he definitely touched me," Kiprusoff said. "It's a pretty simple shot, five-hole, and I'm going to have no trouble stopping those if I'm not touched."
The Flames probably have a legitimate beef but shouldn't have been in that situation in the first place and now need to win tomorrow night's Game 2 to draw even in the best-of-seven affair.
They twice blew leads, the second when Havlat scored in the final minutes to force extra time.
They earned the early edge and failed to build on it, despite three-straight powerplays.
And when the young Blackhawks came charging, the Flames couldn't slam the door.
"We established a pretty good road game to start with, but we couldn't sustain it in the third period when it was necessary," Keenan said. "To win on the road, that's when you have to have the push back when there is a momentum swing, look at the details and stay assertive and forceful in your defensive posture.
"Not get on your heels a bit, which I think we did.
"I think they sensed we were trying to defend the lead a little bit too cautiously rather than being assertive in our play and forecheck and spend time in their zone. They fed off that, scored a goal and it perpetuated itself."
For nearly 55 minutes, it appeared the more experienced Flames would take the lid-lifter.
They were certainly the better club over the first half of the game but couldn't build on David Moss's first-period tally to really put some doubt in the minds of their hosts.
Even when Michael Cammalleri restored Calgary's edge early in the final period, the chance to win was right there.
That believe it was in their hands is about all the Flames could hang on to afterwards.
"It was a close game both ways," said captain Jarome Iginla.
"We feel we play like that good things are going to happen. They got a late one against us and you give them credit. There's more from us, but there were a lot of good things, the physical play and the skating.
"The fact they scored first period of OT on the first shift, that's good for them -- sucks for us -- but we'll get back at it, and two nights from now, we'll do a lot of the same things we did in the first period."
They'll need to do two things for that plan to come together.
First, solve Hawks goalie Nikolai Khabibulin, who stopped 23 shots and was especially strong when Calgary had the chance to put the game away. The other is to regroup and control a game from start to finish.
"The one thing about this group, I've said all year, there's a strong belief and desire to win in this room and I would think that builds the way things went tonight.
"I would think we'll be stronger."
Cam Barker scored Chicago's other goal.