Wed, May 19, 2004 - Page 20 News List

Flames remain king of the road

NATIONAL HOCKEY LEAGUE Jarome Iginla took the NHL playoff scoring lead with an early short-handed goal as Miikka Kiprusoff got his fourth shutout of the playoffs

AP , SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA

Mikka Kiprusoff of the Calgary Flames makes a save against the San Jose Sharks in Game 5 of the Western Conference finals during the Stanley Cup playoffs at the HP Pavilion in San Jose, California, Monday.

PHOTO: AFP

The road rules still apply for the Calgary Flames: When they're on the road in the playoffs, they rule. Jarome Iginla is growing into his outsized talents in the playoffs -- and he's doing most of his developing on the road for the Flames.

Iginla took the NHL playoff scoring lead with an early short-handed goal, and Miikka Kiprusoff got his fourth shutout of the playoffs in the Flames' 3-0 victory over the San Jose Sharks in Game 5 of the Western Conference finals Monday night.

Marcus Nilson and Craig Conroy also scored to help the Flames take a 3-2 lead in the series, which could end Wednesday night at the Saddledome -- if Calgary can become the first home team to win in the series. Whether it was physical superiority or simply a mental edge, Iginla seemed to have an extra stride on all the Sharks. He scored with impressive ease: intercepting a pass, outskating two Sharks and slipping the puck under Evgeni Nabokov for the game's first score 6 1/2 minutes in.

He scarcely let up for the rest of the night, shepherding the Flames to a dominant victory. Iginla, fresh off his selection to Canada's roster for the World Cup of Hockey, is leading in word and deed during the Flames' amazing postseason.

"I thought right from the drop of the puck, my legs were moving better," Iginla said. "Line after line, we were pushing. We were able to find that intensity we didn't have earlier in the series."

With their eighth road victory of the postseason, the Flames are closing in on the NHL record of 10 road playoff wins, set by the New Jersey Devils in 1995 and 2000. What's more, they're doing it in style -- dominating the Sharks for the second straight time in San Jose while rebounding from consecutive losses in Calgary.

Maybe the Flames' white jerseys just fit better. Maybe they burn boos for fuel. Maybe they love the silence of a building full of disheartened fans.

For whatever reason, the Flames are thoroughly enjoying the comforts of road.

"It's definitely different, what we're doing this year [on the road]," said Iginla, who has 16 postseason points. "I can't put my finger on why it's working out this way. I don't think anybody can. It's kind of fun, though."

In Game 6, the Sharks will face elimination for the first time in the postseason. The Flames have been in plenty of tight spots already this spring: All three of their playoff series were tied after four games, and Calgary won all three Game 5s.

Playing with confidence and yet another 2-0 first-period lead at the sold-out Shark Tank, the sixth-seeded Flames moved to the brink of their first trip to the Stanley Cup finals since 1989, when they won the franchise's only championship. Calgary hopes to be Canada's first representative in the finals since 1994.

In the Eastern Conference finals, Philadelphia is at Tampa Bay in Game 5 on Tuesday night. The series is tied 2-2.

Iginla and Conroy scored unassisted goals resulting from inexcusable mental lapses by the Sharks, who were in disarray for the biggest game of their season.

"Where that performance came from, I really have no idea," Sharks coach Ron Wilson said. "It wasn't one or two guys. It was almost the whole team struggling.''

Nabokov made 18 saves for the Sharks, who have lost four straight home playoff games. The Sharks seemed confident following a dominant 4-2 victory in Game 4 -- but 24 hours later, their fans booed them off the ice after each of the final two periods.

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