St. Petersburg Times Online: Business

Weather | Sports | Forums | Comics | Classifieds | Calendar | Movies

The pinch that didn't pay

Pavel Kubina slid down to keep the play alive, and Calgary took advantage.

Published May 30, 2004

CALGARY, Alberta - The Flames were surging.

Leading 1-0 late in the second period, Calgary was in control of the tempo and the puck. So, when Tampa Bay's Vinny Lecavalier stood behind the Flames goal with the puck on his stick, it seemed like a big moment for the Lightning.

How quickly things changed.

The situation

Lightning defenseman Pavel Kubina, pinching from his spot at the blue line to keep the play alive in the Calgary zone, passed the puck to Lecavalier behind the net. Lecavalier spotted Fredrik Modin rushing to the net and tried a centering pass. But the pass missed. Modin was already at the net when the puck sailed behind him. With Kubina still deep in the zone, no one guarded the point for the Lightning.

The puck slid all the way through the middle of the Calgary zone to the blue line, where Calgary wing Shean Donovan picked it up with a head of steam for a two-on-one breakaway with teammate Chuck Kobasew. Defenseman Darryl Sydor, skating backward, took his proper position, splitting the distance between the Calgary players.

Though it might not have looked like it as Donovan streaked down the ice with the puck, the odds were not in his favor.

The play

Entering the Lightning zone to goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin's right, Donovan settled a rolling puck and never even looked at Kobasew, using him instead as a decoy. From the faceoff circle, Donovan fired a wrist shot.

"You've got to make a perfect shot to score from off the wing," Lightning TV analyst Bobby Taylor said. "Ninety-nine times out of a hundred you hit the goalie or miss the net."

This was the 100th time.

The result

Donovan's low-percentage wrist shot beat Khabibulin top shelf on the glove side, the opposite side from where Donovan took the shot. It was the only location Donovan had any chance of getting the puck past Khabibulin, the only glimmer of net he could see, and he found it.

The unassisted goal was his fifth and gave Calgary an insurmountable 2-0 lead at 17:09. Donovan, not known as a scorer during his first nine seasons, blossomed in his first with the Flames, recording 18 goals in the regular season.

"It was a perfect shot," Taylor said.

The effect

As the first two games of the series proved, in the lead is the place to be. The team that scored first won Games 1 and 2.

Now, add Game 3.

Calgary, which had only two shots in the first period, outshot the Lightning 12-6 in the second. And though Tampa Bay was aggressive in the third, it could not crack goaltender Miika Kiprusoff, who recorded his team-record fifth shutout of the playoffs.

"The way these teams have played without the lead has not been very good," Taylor said. "Neither one of them has done anything to get back into the game. That's why the lead is so important for these guys. Both these teams are great front-runners. That's been the big thing."

© Copyright, St. Petersburg Times. All rights reserved.