Originally created 06/02/04

Flames, Lightning both looking to extend Game 5 success



TAMPA, Fla. -- Three times before in these Stanley Cup playoffs, the Calgary Flames were 2-2 in a series. Three times they went on the road and won, then took the series.

Twice before in these playoffs, the Tampa Bay Lightning played a pivotal Game 5. They won both, once to end a series and the other time to take control of it.

So is it any surprise the Flames and Lightning go into Thursday night's Game 5 of their tighter-than-tight Stanley Cup final tied, with Tampa Bay holding home-ice advantage but neither team really in control?

"I don't look at what number the game is," Lightning coach John Tortorella said Tuesday. "It's Game 5, and it's exactly what it is. It's the first of three and we're looking to get to four (victories)."

The Flames are so accustomed to being in this position, they don't seem intimidated by the necessity of having to win at least once more in Tampa, where two of the next three games would be played. Calgary is 9-3 on the road and won Game 1 in Tampa, where the Lightning are 8-3.

"Game 5 has got to be our best game of the series and then we go from there," the Flames' Craig Conroy said. "We have done it before so maybe we've learned something from that, but still this is the first time we've done it in the Stanley Cup finals."

Conversely, the Lightning are glad to be home again after getting back into the series with their 1-0 victory Monday in Calgary, goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin's fifth shutout of the playoffs.

So who has the advantage in a series where the momentum, and the favorite, seemingly shifts not just from game to game, but minute to minute?

If anything, the only two-day break in the series couldn't come at a better time for the Lightning, and not just to recover from Tuesday's 5-hour flight. Defenseman Pavel Kubina and forward Ruslan Fedotenko both get an extra day to heal after sitting out Monday with injuries.

Also, star Vincent Lecavalier didn't play the final 4-plus minutes after being rammed into the glass face-first by Ville Nieminen. The Lightning have yet to disclose Lecavalier's status for Thursday, and the NHL hasn't announced if Nieminen would be suspended.

The Flames' determination to not be out-hit or outmuscled has forced Tampa Bay to fight for every inch of open ice, and it's been successful. The Lightning have scored only six goals in four games, all but two coming in their 4-1 victory in Game 2.

But the Flames paid the price for their overt aggressiveness by giving the Lightning a 5-on-3 advantage early in Game 4, which they turned into Brad Richards' record seventh game-winning goal of the playoffs.

Tortorella, whose team has alternated wins and losses over each of the last two rounds, isn't surprised the final has been so defense-oriented, even though both teams were much more aggressive offensively in previous series.

"As we've gone along, Calgary has gone into more of a defensive mode and, again, we go about our business and try to get our job done," Tortorella said. "I just think as you go through the long road in the playoffs, it's a matter of trying to keep momentum."

Calgary captain Jarome Iginla was as much angry as he was disappointed the Flames couldn't keep that momentum Monday, especially with a chance to take a commanding 3-1 lead. No team has rallied from such a deficit in the Stanley Cup final since the 1942 Maple Leafs.

"Now it's a best-of-three for the Stanley Cup," he said. "It wasn't supposed to be easy and I wouldn't want it any other way. The more on the line, the more fun it is to play and the more fun it is to win."

Thursday's winner will have the obvious edge, as 14 of the last 18 Game 5 winners in a tied series have won the Cup. The 2001 Colorado Avalanche are the only team since 1971 to rally from a 3-2 deficit.