Iginla, Khabibulin battled all night
ESPN's analysts examine the superlative efforts of Jarome Iginla and Nikolai Khabibulin in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup finals.
Game 5 was much like Game 4 in that Calgary was clearly the better team for most of the contest. But unlike in Game 4, the Flames were able to keep pecking away and get the game-winning goal past Tampa Bay goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin, who was the reason the Lightning stole Game 4 and were able to take this one to overtime. The bottom line is that Tampa Bay can't continue to play hard in one out of three periods and expect to win. Calgary simply deserved this win more because of how hard the Flames played from start to finish.
The back-and-forth momentum swings continue, but something tells me the advantage of going back home for Game 6 gives the Flames a very good chance to close out the series. Calgary may have lost Shean Donovan to injury in Game 5, but Ville Nieminen will be back from suspension to help negate that loss, and for the Flames to claim the Stanley Cup on home ice Miikka Kiprusoff will have to be as good for the Flames in that game as Khabibulin was for Tampa in Game 5.
Calgary dominated this game in the first period, and if not for the play of Nikolai Khabibulin the Lighting probably would have trailed 3-0 after 20 minutes. Khabibulin was solid all night but so was Flames captain Jarome Iginla, who beat Khabibulin on a great shot in the second period and set up Oleg Saprykin's game-winning goal in overtime.
Iginla just continues to get better as the playoffs grind on. The bigger the moment, the more important the situation, the more he thrives. He's the best leader in hockey right now and his name should be up there with guys like Mark Messier and Steve Yzerman. Iginla will tell you there are 19 other guys in the dressing room getting the job done, but those 19 guys will tell you Iginla is the one who straps the team on his back and carries it whenever he needs to.
The Flames now have to concentrate on playing a solid home game, which they've struggled to do during this playoff run. They were good at home in Game 3 of the finals and know they're capable of responding in Calgary, but Tampa is probably lucky to have this game in the Saddledome, where Calgary has not always been at its best.
As for the Lightning, they just need to play harder. They did not show a lot of heart early on in Game 5, but did have some good moments later. The Bolts also looked all right on the power play, getting a big goal from Fredrik Modin that tied the score at two goals apiece. Expect Cory Stillman to be back in the lineup to provide another goal-scoring option after coach John Tortorella sent Stillman a message by making him a healthy scratch in Game 5.
Tampa is looking at a big-time gut check in Game 6. The Lightning have not faced much adversity this year -- very few injuries, no real controversy -- and have not trailed in a series yet this postseason, so they have a lot of things working against them heading back to Calgary to try and fight off a battle-tested Flames team. But if you want to be a champion, you have to walk into the devil's den and fight hard to walk back out, so the next game in this series will tell us what Tampa Bay is really made of.
Nikolai Khabibulin was the star of this game despite the loss, staring down the barrel at Jarome Iginla and battling hard right to the end. Khabibulin sure would like to have Iginla's second period goal back -- he seemed to take that wide shot for granted and looked to be a little deep in his net -- but he must have stopped a half-dozen other point-blank chances against Iginla that could have broken the game open. If Khabibulin hadn't robbed Iginla with a spectacular right pad save in the first period to prevent Calgary from taking a 2-0 lead, the game would have been over much earlier.
A goalie is never happy with a losing effort, but Khabibulin gave his team some confidence when it seemed to have nothing in the tank in the first period and was sharp all night. He will likely come out with another supreme effort in Game 6, needing only to avoid putting extra pressure on himself to save his team again. But what he did tonight and the positive imagery that will leave in his mind should stick with Khabibulin and give him plenty to build on going into Game 6.
The real pressure is now on Calgary goalie Miikka Kiprusoff. The city of Calgary is expecting a party on Saturday night and he knows that. But Kiprusoff's sound play went somewhat unnoticed in Game 5 because of Khabibulin's efforts. Tampa Bay had Kiprusoff moving side to side a lot, looking around with his head on a swivel, and those are tough saves to make. But he has the confidence of knowing he's won two previous Game 6s on home ice and should be able to match whatever Khabibulin brings to the table.
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