CALGARY - An hour before Game 3 and Terry Crisp, a guy who knows a thing or two about the teams in the Stanley Cup final, is milling around the underground of the Pengrowth Saddledome. Down the hall, the Flames - all beards, scraggly hair and scowls - are ready to rumble.
"Know what they are?" asked Crisp, the former Flames and Lightning coach. "They're a biker gang. A bunch of bikers is what they are."
They're big, mean and rude. They're brash, ill-tempered and frightening. They're a mob of troublemakers you would hate to encounter in a back alley or dark corner. Or, as the Lightning learned Saturday and now twice in three games, on a sheet of ice.
The Flames flexed their muscles again and overwhelmed the Lightning.
"I think every single guy was ready physically," Calgary captain Jarome Iginla said.
The first period proved that. The Flames only posted two shots, but, as Iginla pointed out, "We set the tone for the game."
The Flames love to hit. They did plenty of that in the first.
They love to fight. Iginla himself did that when he took on the Lightning's Vinny Lecavalier.
And they love to intimidate. They tried to do plenty of that in the first.
"Yeah, they're probably the most physical team we've seen," Lightning defenseman Jassen Cullimore said. "They're quicker than Philadelphia so they get to the puck quicker to make the big hit.
"But, we're willing to take hits to make plays. I don't think that's the problem. We need to do the right things with the puck. Get the puck deep instead of trying to make plays to get a (perfect) shot."
In other words, play with a little jam - the word Lightning coach John Tortorella likes to use. That means playing with an edge, willing to mix it up, willing to fight through a few slashes, elbows and face washes to make a play.
The Flames did those things Saturday.
Take Iginla. He might be the best pure scorer and he also is as good a fighter as the Flames have. He picked up the Gordie Howe Hat Trick: fight, goal, assist.
"I thought we really upped it as a group physically and the fight just kind of happened," Iginla said.
Take Simon. He might be the baddest hombre in the NHL and the toughest fighter. Yet there he was scoring the pivotal first goal.
In fact, it seemed strange after the game that Iginla was asked about a fight and Simon was asked about a goal.
"The fight was huge," Simon said. "It set the tone physically."
Meantime, Iginla said, "(Simon) plays tough and hard and he never quits."
That's a perfect description of the entire team. Take Robyn Regehr. The Calgary defenseman essentially broke the face of the Lightning's Ruslan Fedotenko with a check into the boards, then set up a power-play goal late with a needle-threading pass.
And this is the team the Lightning now has to beat three of the next four games to win the Cup.
"They're very physical," Lightning defenseman Dan Boyle said. "Three games in and so far it has been very physical. We need to respond to that."