- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 30, 2004

CALGARY, Alberta — In the most physical game of the Stanley Cup Finals, the most physical player scored the game-winner.

Calgary tough guy Chris Simon poked his own rebound past Tampa Bay goalie Nikolai Khabibulin to break a scoreless tie midway through the second period of Game3 last night and the underdog Flames went on to a 3-0 victory and a 2-1 series lead.

“What a play Si made to get us going,” said Flames star Jarome Iginla, who assisted on the goal and also scored himself and had a fight for a Gordie Howe hat trick.

“The fight set the tone for us,” said Simon, returning the compliment. “Before the game we talked about [bringing] a physical presence. They’ve got a lot of skill, especially their top two lines. If you give them time and space, they can thread the needle.”

The Lightning, in their first finals, will have to thread a very thin needle if they don’t win Game4 tomorrow. No team has rebounded from a 3-1 finals deficit since 1942.

“We know they’re a physical team,” Tampa Bay coach John Tortorella said. “We need to respond physically. … We need to win the next one.”

Just 3:16 after Simon scored on a third-effort play, Shean Donovan made it 2-0 on an unassisted rush up the ice and a blast from the left circle past Khabibulin’s glove at 17:09. The goal was Donovan’s fifth of the playoffs but first in seven games.

Flames goalie Miikka Kiprusoff, who allowed four goals in a 4-1 loss in Tampa Bay on Thursday, improved to 7-1 with a 1.17 goals-against average after a playoff defeat. The 27-year-old Finn, a backup in San Jose just seven months ago, recorded his fifth shutout this spring, a total exceeded in NHL history only by New Jersey’s Martin Brodeur (seven in 2003) and Detroit’s Dominik Hasek (six in 2002), each of whom went on to win the Cup.

The teams set a physical tone right from the start. Tampa Bay’s Ruslan Fedotenko was knocked down after 15 seconds. Just six seconds later, Calgary’s Martin Gelinas went to the box for elbowing Pavel Kubina. Rhett Warrener leveled Fedotenko again during the power play during which the Lightning managed a lone shot by Martin St. Louis, matching Ville Nimenen’s shorthanded rush for the Flames.

Calgary didn’t test Khabibulin during its subsequent power play, but just 37 seconds after the advantage expired, Hart Trophy candidate Iginla and All-Star center Vincent Lecavalier of the Lightning went at it in the first finals fight between stars since Boston’s Ken Hodge and the New York Rangers’ Vic Hadfield in 1972.

If any more indication was needed that this was a different game than the speedfests of Game1 and 2 in Tampa, Lecavalier gave it at 15:02 when he tried to pass the puck to himself off the back of the net. That trick led to the first goal of Game2. This time, the move didn’t fool anyone and the puck ended up on a Calgary stick moments later.

The offensive futility carried over into the second period. Tampa Bay’s Fredrik Modin had a terrific chance at 3:35 but fired high from the lower left circle. But Calgary went back on the power play when Brad Lukowich slashed Donovan on a rush at 13:03. After Kiprusoff thwarted Brad Richards on a breakaway, Simon made Tampa Bay pay, celebrating his fifth goal in just 12 playoff games by hurling himself into the corner boards.

“We win an offensive zone faceoff and we end up taking a penalty,” Tortorella said. “We had a couple of chances that Kiprusoff made good saves on and they end up scoring on the power play. That was the turning point.”

And Iginla’s power play goal with 1:32 remaining, his playoff-high 12th score, was the exclamation point.

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