<
>

Flames at a loss for lack of hard work

TAMPA, Fla. - Rhett Warrener put two countries' worth of hockey analysts and journalists out of a job with one sentence.

"If we don't outwork them, we won't win."

There you have it. The breakdown of the Calgary Flames' 4-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 2 -- and a preview for those that are left -- of the Stanley Cup finals.

Don't bother asking how they'll contain Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis or Brad Richards. Bringing up their poor performance on the power play? Useless. And don't even start about making adjustments for Game 3. They won't.

The Flames aren't a team of stars, and they know it. Other than Jarome Iginla, their Hart Trophy-candidate captain, no one can dominate offensively. And hockey being a team game and all, Iginla can't do it alone. So if everyone isn't working hard -- skating, hitting, digging for pucks and beating their opponents to loose ones -- they won't win.

"Every one of their guys beat pretty much all of us," said Iginla before boarding the team bus for the flight back to Calgary for Game 3. "That doesn't feel good and we'll get better."

They will have to. During those rare moments when Calgary did mount an attack, Tampa Bay goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin stopped it. If it weren't for the efforts of their goalie, Miikka Kiprusoff, the Flames could have lost by double the margin.

"In the first period, other than Jarome, our skilled players, man, our workers worked, but we had some skill players that weren't as effective in tough areas as their skilled players," Calgary coach Darryl Sutter said.

"We weren't working hard enough," noted Warrener. "If you don't work as hard as the other team, then they get the control and they get the momentum. That's the story of the game. They outworked us in the first and got us on our heels instead of us taking it to them."

"This game's over," he added. "It's about Game 3."

The Flames were unable to explain their loss of intensity; much the same way as the Lightning couldn't after Game 1. In the end, about all they could muster were the usual send-a-message fisticuffs that prolonged the inevitable and sullied the end of the game.

"It's the Stanley Cup finals. We expect it to be intense," said Warrener, explaining away the late-game encounters. "It kind of boiled over in the third. So what. It's part of hockey. When a guy slew-foots our goalie, we've got to do something."

Warrener pinned the act on Lightning instigator Andre Roy. Sutter said he didn't see it, as he says after pretty much all of these kinds of incidents since he was fined for creating one late in the regular season.

Not that it mattered, because the Lightning beat the Flames in pretty much every area that did.

"All the way around, on our (penalty kill), on their (penalty kill), five on five, they beat us tonight," he said. "They won more battles. They were more physical. They had the bigger hits. That's the way it was.

"We're going to learn from this. It's 1-1 in the series and we plan on being a lot better the next game."

A point not wasted on his teammate, winger Ville Nieminen.

"We were outworked, outplayed, outhit, all kinds of outs," he said. "And now we're out of Tampa."

Indeed.

Jim Kelley is the NHL writer for ESPN.com. Sherry Skalko is the NHL editor.