Western Rivals Tie One On 

Flames Predators Settle Nothing in Thriller 

March 13th, 2004

They gave the hottest power play in the NHL and one of the best home teams in the league a chance for the easy way out.

Thanks to 'The New Guys,' however, the Flames managed to avoid slitting their own wrists after a steady stream to the penalty box, recent acquisitions Marcus Nilsson, Ville Nieminen and Chris Simon all scoring single markers in helping Calgary pull a dramatic and critical point out of Nashville last night, tying the Predators 4-4 in an end-to-end speed fest featuring two of the quicker teams in the NHL.

The resurgence of Nieminen from the purgatory of Chicago, coached by the brother of Flames mentor Darryl Sutter, has been nothing short of startling.

"I don't know if I played in Chicago, I just lived there," said Nieminen after the game on FAN960 . "They can stop talking about 'Finding Nemo.' I've found myself."

Indeed, Niemen's story has some similarities to that of the formerly missing Nilsson, doing pretty much nothing in Florida but doing a whole lot as a Flame with his third goal in his last two games.

Simon scored his 15th of the season and first in a Calgary uniform while Jarome Iginla generated his 36th of the year.

The transformation of the dour Predators and Flames into two of the more exciting teams in the NHL has been as sudden as it has been profitable in the standings for each, Nashville and Calgary both advancing leaps and bounds this season and providing a loud and appreciative sellout crowd of 17,113 at the Gaylord Entertainment Center ample reason to continue to buy tickets in a hockey outpost.

A steady stream of Calgary penalties, however, might well have been a sure guarantee of execution given Nashville entered this game operating at a sharp 31.5% clip with the man advantage since acquiring offensive whiz Steve Sullivan 13 games ago, scoring 20 power play goals since he arrived.

Nor did the Predators disappoint, scoring twice on seven opportunities. But as good as Nashville has been on the offensive side of the puck lately, so too have they been surrendering far too much to the opposition, Calgary coming back in this game in dramatic fashion from a late second period 3-1 deficit to secure the tie.

"But we didn't deserve to win this hockey game," said Nieminen "We got outsmarted. Not outworked, but outsmarted."

Calgary is now 35-26-7-3 on the season, good for 80 points, secure in sixth place in the NHL's wild, wild Western Conference, advancing within two points of fifth spot Dallas, staying steady with a two point lead on seventh place Nashville and two points up on eighth place St. Louis.

Most importantly, Calgary established a three point edge on ninth place Los Angeles, losers earlier in the day.

Calgary opened scoring only 26 seconds into the game, newly acquired Nilsson depositing a Shean Donovan rebound behind Nashville starter Tomas Vokoun.

The Predators answered shortly thereafter, the NHL's hottest power play getting a marker from ex-Flame Andreas Johansson on a snapshot from the slot after a clever pass from Martin Erat at 2:39.

Scott Hartnell then lingered in the Flames zone and took advantage of a Flames turnover at their own blueline, Hartnell deflecting a point shot past Kiprusoff at 10:20 of the second.

Scott Walker and Steve Sullivan did all the work in front of Kiprusoff on yet another powerplay, Jeremy Stevensen then pounding a loose puck home at 17:38, a goal that might well have punched the Flames clock for the night as the Predators took a 3-1 lead late in the second period.

But Shean Donovan then drove hard into the Nashville zone, throwing a pass to the front of the net where Nieminen on his knees deflected it past Vokoun at 18:28.

From there Craig Conroy took a long pass from Kiprusoff then dished it off to a streaking Simon who scored on a backhand to tie the game only 34 seconds after Nieminen's marker.

Nashville burst into the lead once again only 13 seconds into the third period on an Adam Hall goal but Conroy broke through the middle of the Predator zone, passed to Jarome Iginla, the latter scoring only 18 seconds later after a great dipsy doodle move for his 36th of the year, one behind league leader Rick Nash of Columbus.

Both goals came four on four.

From there it was a game of line rushes, particularly in overtime where Dan Hamhuis saw his shot wobble just over the Calgary net before Nieminen had his backhand on a breakaway bounce off the crossbar.

"I put all the moves I had but I just couldn't put it in," said a despondent Nieminen, who scored his third as a Flame. "It was heart breaking."

We believe him.

It was only the third time in 30 starts in a Calgary uniform that the normally impeccable Kiprusoff had allowed four or more goals. He faced 32 shots while Calgary directed 24 at Vokoun.

Flames were zero for three on the powerplay.

Calgary had lost six of the last seven times they had visited Nashville.

Flames quickly march off to St. Louis for a game tomorrow night (Sunday) . . . . yet another critical situation in a marathon season with the finish line now firmly in sight and teams still sprinting.





1) Dan Hamhuis - Saved the game for the Predators with an outstanding defensive play in the final minutes of regulation on a streaking Oleg Saprykin and was solid throughout with 27:38 of ice time.

2) Craig Conroy - Seventy-one percent successful in taking most of Calgary's faceoffs and brilliant, veteran passes to streaking comrades giving the Flames their third and fourth goals while adding another assist earlier.

3) Shean Donovan - found a team he could use his speed against, blistering Nashville defencemen repeatedly and earning two assists.

Steve Sullivan picked the puck out the air on a Predator powerplay midway through the second period, drilling the puck at Kiprusoff twice before the Flames netminder smothered the puck, keeping the score 1-1.

These guys weren't too worried about drilling each other, their charges back and forth interrupted only by the thudding hits Krzysztof Oliwa delivered to the head of Nashville tough guy Jim McKenzie in the second period.

Jordan Tootoo was a healthy scratch after a headline in the Nashville Tennessean earlier in the day that read: "Shine Starts To Wear Off Jordan Tootoo." There was some speculation Calgary Captain Jarome Iginla might have been looking for some revenge on Tootoo in the right circumstances (an out of whack score) after Tootoo jumped him in Calgary in the last meeting between these two teams. . . . . . . Martin Gelinas teased a bit by skating in the warm-up but then was a scratch. Gelinas hasn't played since doing an upside down landing on his head a week ago. "The stiffness is going away," said assistant coach Rich Preston of Gelinas. . . . . . Predators were seeking to tie a franchise record in wins set in 2000-2001. . . . . . . . . . It was the fourth sellout of the season for the Predators . . . . Vokoun was making his 63rd appearance for Nashville, Kiprusoff was in his 30th game as a Flame. . . . . Oliwa played in his 400th NHL game. Coach Darryl Sutter had earlier been mortally offended by suggestions that Simon had been acquired to provide a dual role that Oliwa hadn't been able to fill, the evidence perhaps being his healthy scratch against Dallas in a game that featured all kinds of physical play, the Flames coming out second best in the physical department. Sutter answered that criticism by describing Oliwa as his best left winger, certainly the most consistent in the role that had been asked of him. Oliwa, perhaps hearing the barbs himself, provided two goals in the next four games. He and Jim McKenzie fought for the third time this season immediately after the Hartnell goal. . . . . . . Steve Montador was the other healthy scratch. Geez, does this guy still play for the Flames?. . . . . Calgary was 58% in the faceoff circle, led by Conroy's 71%. Sergei Zholtok was 58% for Nashville. . . . . Kimo Timonen led Nashville with 28:26 in ice time while Robyn Regehr led Calgary with 24:01 in ice time. 

Simon Conroy Iginla 
Neiminen Nilson Donovan 
Saprykin Yelle Clark 
Oliwa Lombardi Kobasew

Gauthier Warrener 
Ference Lydman 
Regehr Leopold


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