Calgary can't capitalize on power play

Updated: May 28, 2004, 12:38 AM ET
Associated Press

TAMPA, Fla. -- The Calgary Flames had a first period they'd just as soon forget. Things only got worse in the third.

Throughout the playoffs, the opening 20 minutes were kind to the Western Conference champions. But in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup final, the Flames gave up a rare goal and failed on four power-play opportunities in their 4-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday night.

"They outworked us and outplayed us. That's two pretty important things," defenseman Rhett Warrener said. "We let them take it to us. We were on our heels and they took all the momentum."

Calgary had gone nine straight games without allowing a first-period goal, but that playoff-record run ended when Ruslan Fedotenko made it 1-0 at 7:10. It was only the fifth goal yielded in the opening frame by the Flames in 21 postseason contests.

Quick starts are what the Flames have thrived on in their unlikely run to the finals. They are 11-1 when scoring first and are unbeaten when leading after any period in the postseason.

"They got that early goal and we couldn't take advantage on the power play. That takes a little momentum out of you," forward Stephane Yelle said.

So now the Flames will return home tied 1-1 for the third time in four series.

The early goal could have been neutralized if Calgary's power play posed any kind of threat. The Flames were given four chances, including an advantage when Tampa Bay was whistled for too many men on the ice, but managed only two shots.

"We just have to go back to basics," Yelle said. "Maybe we're trying too hard to do the plays that are not there. When you go back to doing the simple things, that's when you get back on track and you're successful."

It's the same story for Calgary, which bucked the odds by reaching the final despite an anemic power play. In going 1-for-7 in the game -- including five chances in the first 21 minutes -- the Flames fell to 11-for-95 in the postseason.

"If you break it down, our power play had a chance to make a difference. But all the way around, they outcompeted us on the power play," captain Jarome Iginla said. "We've got to be sharper, we've got to be more intense. It's happened to us before. They were more desperate than us and they deserved to win."

Ville Nieminen scored a power-play goal in the third period, but by then the Flames were four goals behind.

"We had a chance to get a lead in the first period. We needed to do that," Nieminen said.

Miikka Kiprusoff kept his team alive for two periods by making several good stops, mostly with his glove and blocker. But he was quite beatable in the third period, when the Lightning scored three goals in the first six minutes.

"Kipper kept us in it, gave us a chance, but we just weren't good enough," Iginla said.

As raucous as the crowds will be for Games 3 and 4 in Calgary, the Flames have found their comfort zone on the road. Even with the loss, they are 9-3 away from home, thus assuring a trip back to Tampa for a necessary fifth game in the best-of-seven series.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press