The Ape is Dead 

Flames Shake Demons, Topple Canucks 

April 19th, 2004

In the end it came down to skill.

Not hard work, not a never say die attitude, not a plucky team that just won't give up.

When the dust settled on a thrilling seven game series with the Vancouver Canucks, the Flames the benefactor of a 4-3 series win and a 3-2 overtime win in game seven, it was Calgary skill that carried the torch.

From the get go the matchup was laid down as brawn versus wizardry, brute force versus on ice poetry, dogged determination against playoff experience. But in the end it was Calgary's star players - forward Jarome Iginla, and goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff that led the way in upsetting the division champion Vancouver Canucks.

"In my 25 years in hockey, that was the single most dominant game I've ever seen a player play", said coach and general manager Darryl Sutter, referring to the three point, nine shot performance of his star player and captain Jarome Iginla.

Iginla, a decorated player with an Art Ross and now two Rocket Richard Trophies has always been held back in the pecking order league wide because he hasn't brought his act to the playoffs.

He has now.

"That was a superstar performance", added a very gracious Marc Crawford after the game, "that was the best game I've ever seen a player play in my time".

The Iginla masterpiece began in the second period when he took advantage of a lazy Geoff Sanderson, finding open ice to receive a Craig Conroy pass. Matthew Lombardi, killing the last seconds of a Calgary penalty fed Conroy coming out of the penalty box, who backhand passed it up the middle to a streaking Iginla who beat Alex Auld for his 4th of the series.

The Canucks thought they tied the score late in the second when Mike Keanne fired a crease shot into Miikka Kiprusoff's pads with the net coming off the moorings soon after. The replay showed the puck entering the cage before the net came off, but the whistle was ruled to have gone before the puck slid into the net. Tough call against the Canucks.

The Canucks tied the score in the third period when Matt Cooke pounced on a redirect off a skate and beat Miikka Kiprusoff to notch the game at one.

Soon after the Canuck goal hero Matt Cooke was whistled down for a high sticking double minor on Rhett Warrener. The HNIC crew and many a Canuck in the post game interviews stated the call was a mistake as Andrew Ference lifted Cooke's stick and into his defence partner's face. The replay, however, shows Ference's stick above Cooke's and not in a lifting fashion, though he did drive Cooke into Warrener on the play. The correct call should have been a penalty, but likely not a double minor.

The Flames made good work of that first minor when Iginla notched his second of the night on a great play by Jordan Leopold. Leopold saw his lane blocked off, took the puck to the middle and fired a low wrister towards the net. Iginla deflected that offering, picked up his rebound and deftly moved it around Auld's pad and into the net.

2-1 Calgary.

That set the stage for a very wild finish.

First Andrew Ference was fingered for slashing when he actually broke his own stick and not the defending Sedin twin on the play, with less than two minutes on the clock.

The Flames killed the first 3/4 of that call when Ed Jovanovski was whistled for laying lumber into Warrener's neck not once, but three straight times.

Then with less than 30 seconds to play Iginla misses an empty net as a fan's garment flew on to the ice. The referee bent over to pick the clothing up, missing an obvious infraction with Iginla's stick being chopped out of his hands. Seconds later Iginla trips on his own stick creating an odd man rush for Canuck captain Marcus Naslund. Naslund beats Leopold wide, takes the puck to the net where Matt Cooke bashes in the rebound to send the game to overtime.

The curse, at that time seemed very real. 15 years without a playoff victory, a run that included seven years out of the playoffs. Seven straight playoff games where the Flames have failed to eliminate an opponent with the chance to do so, and eight straight overtime games where the Flames have found a way to lose.

Tough up hill hike to take on with a goal coming less than six seconds from a series win. You could almost hear the horror music in the background. Same old script, same old heartbreak, same old "why me?" proclamations from Calgary fans.

Not this time.

With the Jovanovski minor still being served the Flames started the overtime period on the powerplay. What an ironic way to end a series.

With the Flames seemingly going longer and longer in overtime over the years without a winner, and the powerplay soiling itself on occasion after occasion through the series, one wouldn't think a quick powerplay winner was in the cards, but that's exactly what transpired.

Jarome Iginla directed the puck towards the net, Stephane Yelle kept it alive before Iginla fired yet another shot with his series long check, Mattias Ohlund in his wake. Martin Gelinas picked up the rebound and fired it home to clinch the series.

The fact that Gelinas, a member of the 1994 Canucks that beat the Flames in Calgary in game seven, scored the winner is just great filler for a long time coming Calgary series win.

The monkey has been tossed off the Flames back, stomped on and left for dead. This team is its own, they don't belong to previous Flame clubs that stumbled their way through Stanley's dance and they deserve the space to write their own piece of Calgary playoff history.

Now the Flames embark on the second round of the playoffs ... an oddity for sure, against a very worthy and experienced Detroit Red Wing team. The Flames are decimated by injuries and likely have many more bodies listed as healthy that wouldn't be playing if it was a regular season game against the Columbus Blue Jackets. The team that made it out of this battle was likely to be in over their heads in the second round, and that just may be the case for the Flames against Detroit.

However, counting this team out has been fool's gold all season.

"It feels good", said the hero Jarome Iginla, "it's been 15 years for Calgary. Lets keep it going!".

Amen Jarome. Amen.

Have fun Calgary, it's been far too long.





1) Jarome Iginla - That albatross of an inflated contract just doesn't seem so large now does it? The captain scores twice and assists on the overtime winner in his best performance in his seven year career in a Calgary uniform. 

2) Matt Cooke - Had a great series and capped it off with two clutch goals to give his team a chance. His high sticking penalty was also a game factor in the third period. 

3) Craig Conroy - Took the plastic part of his face mask off for game seven and was much more himself in garnering two assists for the winning side.

With only a handful of minutes on the clock Alex Auld was forced to stone Craig Conroy on a blatant Ed Jovanovski cough up, and then Marcu Nilson on a two on one to give the Canucks a chance at late game heroics.

One of the least physical games in the series featured few huge hits, but Craig Conroy's second period penalty for leveling Canuck Artem Chubarov was about as hard as any in the game.

After the game Marc Crawford insisted the Marcus Naslund was completely healthy only to have his captain storm off with a "no comment" when asked the same question a few minutes later. ... Darryl Sutter was like a proud papa in his press conference, pumping up his team and basking the light of a glory restoring victory for his home province team. When asked if he'd let his team savour the victory he replied, "of course I will. I might be half crazy but I'm not all crazy." Sutter thought Iginla was the difference in this one and pointed out the player's leadership skills. "Look at all the young captains in the National Hockey League, find me a better one". ... The Flames powerplay was overmatched by the Canuck offering throughout the series with the Flames hanging on due to a 12-6 edge in even strength goals. Yet it was the Calgary man advantage group making the difference in game seven, going 2 for 5 on the powerplay while the Canucks were zero for five. ... Miikka Kiprusoff made 26 saves on the night, Alex Auld 25. The shots were tied at 28 apiece to show just how close these two teams were matched. ... Even with the depleted defence core, Jarome Iginla led all Flames skaters with 27:27 of ice time. One of Calgary's quiet heroes in the series was Andrew Ference, a player that toiled almost 26 minutes tonight. Ference has had his status and responsibilities ratchet up twice in this series, first with an injury to Toni Lydman in game three, and then again with Denis Gauthier going down in game six. Ference has been equal to the challenge. ... With Detroit now on tap you have to wonder how many of the walking wounded may come into the picture. Steve Reinprecht and Dean McAmmond are gone for the season, but how about Chris Simon? Toni Lydman? Denis Gauthier? The club will need some of these players back to challenge the Wings. ... But what a fun thing to ponder, round two, Flames in it. Who'd a thunk? ... 

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

Regehr Leopold 
Gauthier Warrener 
Montador Commodore

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