Flames Clip Wings In Opener 

Marcus Nilson Overtime Goal Nets Series Lead 

April 22nd, 2004

They said Calgary couldn’t match the skill of the Wings.

They said the Flames would be sapped dry of energy after their vigorous seven game affair against Vancouver.

They said the outlandish advantage held by Detroit in playoff experience would be a decisive factor.

They said Calgary had to stay out of the penalty box against the number one ranked power play in the league.

They said the Flames couldn’t fall behind against the deadly Wings, a veteran team that knows how to close out a win after it gains a lead.

"They" were essentially right about much of the above last night in Detroit . . . . . . but the never-say-die Flames won the game anyway, stealing the opening game of their Western Conference semi-final 2-1 in overtime after the Wings dominated most of the contest but couldn’t get the offence they needed to seal the deal.

It was a stunning result for the visitors, Marcus Nilson with his first of the playoffs at 2:39 of overtime, the late season acquisition from Florida converting a Martin Gelinas pass and finding the top corner with a nifty one timer and giving Calgary an improbable 1-0 series lead over the heavily favoured Wings.

"I was screaming for it," said Nilson on FAN960 of the play. "I was wide open. It was probably luck but it was nice to see it go in."

Calgary now claims home ice advantage in the series.

"It’s a good feeling," Nilson added. "But it’s only one game. We can feel good about it tonight but then we have to think about the next game tomorrow."

The contest marked the third consecutive overtime for Calgary and was the fourth win in five games on the road for the Flames so far in this young playoff year.

This game had none of the swirling, back and forth, high octane excitement of the Calgary/Vancouver series, Detroit largely setting the tone throughout, tying the Flames up and content to employ their striking counterattack game which resulted in a significant territorial advantage, Calgary saved only by the excellent netminding of Vezina Trophy candidate Miikka Kiprusoff.

Every inch of ice was contested in methodical fashion, the Flames either still feeling the effects of their recently concluded beating of Vancouver or the Wings refusing to allow them the skating game they prefer.

Detroit dominated the opening 40 minutes and were finally successful in solving Kiprusoff, Robert Lang cutting to the slot with a Flame draped on his back, the 6’2", 220 lb centre firing a no-look shot against the seam, catching the corner with the Calgary netminder sliding the wrong way at 6:14 of the second.

With the shots favouring Detroit 21-9 late in the second, Robyn Regehr threaded a blue line slapper through a gaggle of bodies and caught Detroit starter Curtis Joseph on his knees, the puck going into the net over his shoulder on the short side at 17:57.

The goal broke Joseph’s shutout streak going back into the first round series with Nashville at 118:35 and seemed to signal a sea change in the Flames, the latter in a game they probably shouldn’t have been but now eyeing an unlikely prize.

As the period ended it became apparent the shots and territory division may have been lopsided, but the chances to score weren’t necessarily rated the same way.

A fair analysis of this game might leave us with the observation the Flames recovered from stiff legs in the first, looked better in the second then played with the Wings stride for stride the rest of the way.

"Halfway through the game, I thought we took over and started to play Flames hockey," analyzed Nilson.

Jarome Iginla continued with his superb play, a leftover from the Vancouver series, banging the crossbar on a three-on-one break in the second period and having two other excellent chances, bursting through the middle of the ice and forcing Joseph to make outstanding stops.

At the other end, Kiprusoff was called upon to be solid and occasionally spectacular, the Wings passing forcing the Flames netminder east/west on numerous occasions while straightforward but screened bombs through traffic from Mathieu Schneider and Nik Lidstrom were also a handful.

In the end, Kiprusoff would finish with 28 saves, not an unusually heavy night of work for him in terms of a shot count and a good omen for the Flames who are virtually unbeatable when limiting the opposition to 25 or fewer shots.

Calgary now has home ice advantage.

Detroit was zero for six on the power play while Calgary was zero for three.

Next up is game two on Saturday afternoon.





1. Miikka Kiprusoff – Did he steal this game? Yes he did, the shots 10-1 to start the contest and 21-9 at the halfway mark. 

2. Robert Lang – Reminded everyone of the instinctive skill on this Wings team with a classic throwback goal to give Detroit an early lead.

3. Jarome Iginla – Hasn’t slowed down since his dominating performance in game 7 against the Canucks.

With the game tied late in the second period, Iginla accepted a loose puck with speed, burst through the middle of the ice and drilled a riser at a sprawling Joseph, the Wings goalie saving the bacon of his teammates with a fortunate save.

Matthew Lombadi wheeled into the Detroit zone and was promptly splattered against the sideboards by Darian Hatcher . . . . . but Lombardi’s loose puck eventually found its way to Robyn Regehr who scored a critical tying goal for Calgary late in the second period.

"Kiprusoff is a small goalie," said CBC analyst Glenn Healy, arguing the Calgary netminder had to see "around the action" due to his shrimpyness. Kiprusoff is 6’2", one of the taller goalies in the league. . . . . . . . Healy recovered from that faux pas with some good observations on the duo of Chris Chelios and Darian Hatcher, pointing out the latter avoided foot races with the fleet Flames, letting Chelios race across the ice for combat in the corners while Hatcher covered the front of the net . . . . . . It was the 317th consecutive shutout in Hockeytown, USA but television revealed a lot of lower bowl seats disguised as fans for some reason . . . . . The Flames were crushed in the faceoff circle, getting the best of their veteran counter parts on only 41% of draws. It was a flip flop of sorts with the usually dependable Stephane Yelle winning only 36% and the usually victimized Marcus Nilson taking 66% of his face offs. Every Wing pivot was over the break even point. ... Despite the loss of Denis Gauthier and Toni Lydman in the Vancouver series, neither Robyn Regehr nor Jordan Leopold reached the expected 30 minute point in ice time tonight. The club's top duo and the second unit of Rhett Warrener and Andrew Ference all came in between 24 and 25 minutes. The final pairing of Mike Commodore and Steve Montador had roughly ten minutes less. 

Saprykin Conroy Iginla 
Gelinas Nilson Donovan 
Nieminen Lombardi Clark 
Oliwa Yelle Kobasew

Regehr Leopold 
Gauthier Warrener 
Montador Commodore

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