Flames relying on experience against Ducks

Updated: May 1, 2006, 12:01 AM ET
Associated Press

CALGARY, Alberta -- Darren McCarty is banking on experience to carry the Calgary Flames through their tight first-round series against the Anaheim Mighty Ducks.

"I'm a firm believer that the way you learn how to win is to go through difficult losing and finding out how to get over that," McCarty said Sunday before the Flames' flight to California for Game 6 of its Western Conference matchup.

The Flames lead the best-of-seven series 3-2 and can eliminate the Mighty Ducks with a win Monday night.

Many of the key pieces in the Flames' trek to the 2004 Stanley Cup finals remain in place, players who know what it's like to endure a heartbreaking defeat. Calgary's seven-game loss to Tampa Bay in the 2004 Stanley Cup finals is still fresh in the players' minds.

McCarty joined the Flames in the offseason after winning three Stanley Cup titles with the Detroit Red Wings -- but those championships didn't come without some growing pains.

"I don't think I really understood what it was about," McCarty said of his first playoff experience in 1994, when the Red Wings were upset in the first round by the San Jose Sharks.

McCarty learned a lot more after Detroit's loss in the Stanley Cup finals the next year, followed by a loss to Colorado in the 1996 Western Conference championship.

"Those three years [were] a learning experience about the difference between regular season and playoffs and what it takes to get over that hump," McCarty said.

Difficult losing, at least at the NHL level, is not something many Anaheim players can draw upon. The Mighty Ducks dressed six rookies in Saturday's 3-2 loss, and 10 players are seeing their first playoff action.

But Anaheim forward Todd Marchant doesn't believe teams need to lose to learn how to win.

"Whether you played junior, college, in Europe, guys have been in these situations before," Marchant said Saturday. "Just because it wasn't at the NHL level doesn't mean you can't draw on your experiences of the past.

"Yes, it is at a higher level, but the situations are the same."

The Flames face a familiar situation, having owned a 3-2 lead in all four series during their 2004 Stanley Cup run. They lost in triple overtime to Vancouver in the first round, eliminated Detroit in the second and San Jose in the third before falling in double overtime to the Lightning in the finals.

Flames defenseman Andrew Ference said he and his teammates have learned not to get ahead of themselves, especially while on the verge of a series victory.

"It's knowing how to buckle down when a team's up against the wall," Ference said. "When [a team is] facing elimination, it's always going to be the toughest game you face."

Ference says the key for the Flames is to concentrate on their own game -- and not the Ducks' lack of playoff experience.

"We don't give too much thought about their young guys or their inexperience," Ference said. "We control what's in this room and we feel that if we're on it and doing things right, whether they're the most experienced team in the world or not, it should be our play that dictates the outcome."

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press