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Flames down, but not out

by Mike G. Morreale
CHICAGO -- Their confidence is a bit shaken and their goalie a little rattled, but the Calgary Flames are heading home with just one intention in mind -- to even this best-of-7 Western Conference Quarterfinal series with the Chicago Blackhawks.

The odds certainly don't look good, as out of the last 27 NHL playoff series that were tied 2-2, the Game 5 winner has gone on to win 25 of those series. The two lone exceptions were the Calgary Flames. With the Blackhawks now holding a 3-2 series lead, there's a distinct possibility it could happen again.

"It's always tougher to win that final game and we know how tough it was to win in Calgary but the sense of playoff hockey is real for us and we know the challenge that lies ahead," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "Let's see if we've learned from our last two losses in Calgary (in Games 3 and 4)."

Flames goalie Miikka Kiprusoff, who was pulled in the second period in favor of backup Curtis McElhinney, didn't appreciate the early hook and teammate Mike Cammalleri certainly understands why.

"You expect that type of reaction from Kipper; he's a very competitive person," Cammalleri said. "I don't think it was just him who was upset with the way things were going (Saturday), either. We weren't ready to play as a team in front of him and we didn't give him a good enough effort, so maybe that's the coach trying to spark something out of us."

If Mike Keenan did seek a spark, he never got it as the Blackhawks and their fans collectively booted the Flames right out of the United Center from the opening faceoff. Five different players dented the net for the Blackhawks, while Brent Seabrook, Martin Havlat and Kris Versteeg each collected multiple points.

The Hawks know that Kiprusoff will bounce back in Calgary on Monday and it'll be their job to make certain the series doesn't return home for a Game 7.

"Kipper is obviously going to come back and play well on Monday," Blackhawks defenseman Cam Barker said. "He's one of the top goalies in the League and we wouldn't expect anything less from him than to come back and have a good game."

Barker denied the notion that the 32-year-old Kiprusoff, who played in 76 games during the regular season, appeared tired or sluggish between the pipes.

"I wouldn't say (Kiprusoff) looks tired," Barker said. "Every team has those kind of games and you (media) guys were asking me about Khabibulin (after Game 4), so there's ups and downs. No question he'll play well for them."

Said Versteeg: "They probably took him out for other reasons like maybe to not to get his confidence down. Coaches do that and Kipper is an unbelievable goalie and I don't think guys like him get fazed too much."

Meanwhile, Chicago goalie Nikolai Khabibulin will be shooting for his first series triumph since winning the Stanley Cup with Tampa Bay four seasons ago.

"Sure, it's exciting, but you have to be patient and nothing really changes," Khabibulin said. "We still have to win the game. Whether it's the first game or the last game, you still have to go out and win it. My approach won't change because you still need the effort just like we gave (Saturday)."

The Blackhawks will be gunning for their first series triumph since the 1995-96 campaign -- when they swept the Flames in the quarterfinal round.

"Each game in this series has been tough, but from experience, I can say that closing out a series is especially difficult," Quenneville said. "We need to maintain our discipline by staying out of the penalty box, but continue to play hard and smart. We will need to play our best game to win in Calgary, something we are capable of."

Added Chicago defenseman Brent Seabrook: "We need to be prepared heading back to Calgary and worry more about how we are going to play. They are a rough team that likes to play physically, but I think our combination of skill and toughness is really effective. We need to jump on them early again to take the crowd out of the game."

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