Us against the world

Following the disheartening loss in game 4, and without Ville Niemenen who was lost to suspension, many were once again writing the Calgary Flames off in the 2004 playoffs. Evidently "many" weren't paying attention in the previous three rounds.

The theatrics began a day before the game, as Darryl Sutter blessed sportswriters with a classic rant. Without actually accusing the league of bias, Sutter all but stated the league of cheerleading for Tampa, and stated that the decision on Ville Niemenen's suspension was made in New York - where Gary Bettman works - rather than Toronto - where league disciplinarian Colin Campbell is based. Bettman responded by trying to dismiss the argument, stating he would look at taking action against Sutter following the playoffs. While fans in Calgary were calling into radio stations looking to donate money to pay for the expected fine, Bettman never did take any action. Read into that what you like.

In both Calgary and Tampa, standing room only crowds flocked to their respective arenas to watch the pivotal game 5 - fans in Calgary spending over an hour in lines throughout the city trying to get passes into the Saddledome for the game, as once again, the statheads told us how important this game was. 83% of teams that win the fifth game of a tied series go on to win the series.

Sutter's "world against the Flames" rant appeared to pay off. The Flames were intent on winning this game, taking the play to Tampa in the first. Somehow, the Lightning managed to escape the opening frame with a 1-1 tie. Not content with their effort, the Flames pressed even harder, outshooting the Lightning 14-3 in the 2nd, but only had one goal to show for it, as should-have-been Conn Smythe winner Jarome Iginla sent a seeing-eye shot past Khabibulin's stick. Despite the Flames dominance, it all appeared that it would go for naught when Modin tied the game very early in the third on a powerplay after Rhett Warrener was flagged for holding Tampa's dead man walking - Vinny Lecavalier.

The rest of the third period, and the entire overtime would test the hearts and nerves of all fans as it quickly became evident that the next goal would win.

Late in the first overtime period came what is now known in Calgary simply as [b]The Shift[/b]. Jarome Iginla was on the ice for the final two minutes of the game, and simply took it over. He very nearly won the game himself, but for the heroics of Khabibulin, and after losing his helmet in a scrum, rushed back into the defensive zone to help his teammates defend against a Tampa attack, only to rush back on the offensive, and thread the puck through two Tampa sticks, on goal, allowing Oleg Saprykin to bang the rebound in and send the entire city of Calgary into a frenzy.

The Calgary Flames, eight years removed from their last playoff run, were now just one win away from capturing the grestest trophy in sport, and had two chances to do it.

Unfortunately, in what ultimately may have become the turning point, Shean Donovan suffered a serious charlie horse late in this game, and while he was expected to return for game 6, he was unable to play the rest of the series. The loss of Donovan wiped out the Flames 2nd line of Nilson-Donovan-Niemenen, which had sparked the Flames the entire playoff run. After surviving several tests of depth in this playoff run, the Flames would later discover that Donovan's injury may have been one too many.

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