Taylor: 'This is not acceptable'

Originally Published: June 4, 2004
By Sherry Skalko | ESPN.com

TAMPA, Fla. -- Tim Taylor is angry.

PIVOTAL GAME 5
In the 18 previous Stanley Cup finals that were tied 2-2, the team winning Game 5 has won the Stanley Cup 14 times (77.8 percent). The clubs that bucked the trend:
YEAR TEAM (OPPONENT)
1950 Detroit Red Wings
(vs. New York Rangers)
1964 Toronto Maple Leafs
(vs. Detroit Red Wings)
1971 Montreal Canadiens
(vs. Chicago Blackhawks)
2001 Colorado Avalanche
(vs. New Jersey Devils)
"This is not acceptable," the Tampa Bay Lightning center said after losing Game 5 of the Stanley Cup finals, 3-2 in overtime, to the Calgary Flames.

"There is nothing for second place. They don't give you a little Cup for second place. There is nothing. You go home. I've been there. It's a real, real sad feeling. It's heartbreaking to go this far and not get the job done.

"I expect, and I think everyone expects within our hockey club, that we're going to come back and each individual is going to have their best game of the playoffs. We have to. I don't think anyone could look themselves in the mirror if we didn't."

Those mirrors hang on the walls of the visitors' dressing room at the Pengrowth Saddledome, where the Lightning are headed to meet the Flames in Game 6 on Saturday (ABC, 8 p.m. ET). If they win, the Lightning play host to Game 7 on Monday. If they lose, the series is over, and the Lightning will point their fingers at Game 5.

The Lightning have been unable to explain why they haven't won back-to-back games since Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Philadelphia Flyers. It wasn't so difficult to figure out Thursday night.

The Lightning take chances. Several of them. They always do. In fact, one of the many signs hanging on their dressing room wall reads: Safe is death.

The smart chances usually result in scoring opportunities. The dumb ones usually lead to turnovers.

Over the course of the series, the Flames have figured out how to take advantage of the Lightning's chances, especially the dumb ones. In Game 4, the Flames were unable to convert their fortuitous discoveries and lost 1-0. They didn't have that problem in Game 5 and scored two of their three goals off turnovers. Now they're one win away from the Stanley Cup.

"It's hard now, but it's worse when the night goes on," Taylor said. "Thank God there's not two days in between; there's just one day. We get on the flight (Friday) and get our heads ready for this game."

And therein lies the problem. The Lightning have the talent of Stanley Cup finalists, as they showed by dispatching the Flyers, the Montreal Canadiens and the New York Islanders. But there's only one game in this series they can point to as being a complete 60-minute effort, an indication that the Lightning's problems are mental rather than physical.

"Game 2 is about the only game I felt where we came to play with heart and determination," Taylor said of the Lightning's 4-1 win at home. "Game 2 is probably the only game we deserved to win. This is a rallying call. This is a rallying call for everyone within this hockey team to get prepared and do the job for Game 6."

The Lightning's job in Game 6 stands to be a bit easier than the Flames'. The Bolts are 6-0 following a loss in the 2004 playoffs, outscoring the opposition 18-5. Their goaltender, Nikolai Khabibulin, has posted a 0.83 goals-against average, a .968 save percentage and two shutouts in the six wins. He has lost two consecutive starts only once since the All-Star break in early February.

Game 5 was the Flames' 10th road win, which tied the Stanley Cup playoffs record for most road wins in a single postseason set by the New Jersey Devils in 1995 and 2000. They're only 5-6 at home.

However, the Flames have won their last two Game 6s at home and eliminated the San Jose Sharks and Detroit Red Wings. Still, as Taylor points out, the fourth win in the Stanley Cup finals is the most difficult to come by.

"They're going to have all their families and friends in there, and a chance to clinch the Cup," he said. "It's a tough game; it really is a tough game. Another team's back is against the wall, and they're in front of the home fans.

"We have to go up there and shake things up really early. We have to get that lead. A lot of things change in a series once you win that Game 6."

Count one member of the Lightning intent on spoiling the Flames' party plans.

"Absolutely," Taylor said. "They're spoiling ours. So why not go up there and do it to them?"

Sherry Skalko is the NHL editor for ESPN.com.

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