CGY Wins series 4-2
43-21-6, 19-13-4 away
42-30-3, 21-14-1 home

Sharks tank in Game 6 at Calgary

CALGARY, Alberta (AP) -- The pandemonium began while the puck was still in play, sliding alone toward the tranquility of the San Jose Sharks' unguarded net.

When the final score of the Western Conference finals bisected

the goal line as time expired, the Calgary Flames and their fans

were going too crazy to notice. With one more fantastic finish,

Canada's team had earned the right to play for the Cup.

Calgary's Marcus Nilson chases San Jose's Marcel Goc as they both chase the puck.
Calgary's Marcus Nilson chases San Jose's Marcel Goc as they both chase the puck.

Captain Jarome Iginla scored his 10th playoff goal as the

Flames advanced to their first Stanley Cup finals in 15 years with

a 3-1 victory over the Sharks in Game 6 Wednesday night.

Miikka Kiprusoff made 18 saves for the Flames, whose victory was

the first by a home team in the series. But Calgary's "Red Sea"

finally had something to cheer as the Flames took an early lead and

hung on through the third period.

Calgary missed the playoffs in each of the previous seven

seasons before a young roster, a new coach and an otherworldly

goalie put together one of the most improbable playoff runs in

recent history -- and it's not over yet.

"You never know when this opportunity is going to come again in

your life," said Iginla, who leads the playoffs with 17 points.

"You'd like to think it's going to happen every year ... but we

know that's not the case. You have to grab it when it comes."

The Sharks pulled goalie Evgeni Nabokov in the final minute of a relentless third-period attack, but the Flames' Robyn Regehr was credited with a goal with one second left after San Jose's Alex Korolyuk attempted to pass the puck from behind the Calgary net.

It went the length of the ice, settling into the net while the

Flames threw their sticks and gloves in the air.

Martin Gelinas, twice an overtime hero in series-clinching

games, also put the puck in the net for the sixth-seeded Flames,

who will open their fourth straight playoff series on the road

Tuesday, at either Tampa Bay or Philadelphia.

Gelinas scored the eventual winning goal in the second period.

"[Overtime goals] are too hard on my heart," he said. "It was

good to get it out of the way early. ... When we started the

season, we knew we had a gritty team that worked hard, and our goal

was to make the playoffs. To say that we were going to get the

Stanley Cup, that's hard to believe."

Calgary hasn't been in the NHL's final round since winning the

Stanley Cup in 1989 -- and the Canadian anthem will be sung in the

finals for the first time since Vancouver made it in 1994. A

Canadian team hasn't won the Cup since Montreal's victory in 1993.

The party spilled out into the streets in Calgary, where

thousands of fans honked horns, waved banners and turned the

popular 17th Avenue entertainment district into a parking lot.

Alyn McCauley scored for San Jose, but the best season in

franchise history ended with back-to-back losses in the Sharks'

first appearance in the conference finals. San Jose also lost its

final four home games of the playoffs, running out of energy and

focus despite its 104-point regular season and home-ice advantage

in every round.

"We just didn't have good luck this time," said center Vincent Damphousse, whose career with the Sharks probably is over. "We've got a lot of breaks in the playoffs, but I guess our luck just ran out."

Nabokov made 27 saves but lost again to Kiprusoff, his former

backup. Kiprusoff arrived in Calgary in a trade last November, and

the Flames haven't been the same -- they've been good enough to roar

past every Western team with a low-budget roster and an impeccable

work ethic.

"You never pictured this in your wildest dreams," said Craig Conroy, whose steal of a second-period faceoff set up Gelinas' goal. "Everything about this season has just been too good to be true."

The Flames had more jump from the opening faceoff, narrowly

missing several scoring chances before Iginla walked in on Nabokov

for a power-play goal with 93 seconds left in the first period.

Three minutes after Conroy assisted on Gelinas' goal, McCauley

scored San Jose's first goal in approximately 118 minutes -- but

that was it for the Sharks, who scored just once in the final seven

periods of the series.

Though coach Darryl Sutter rejects the idea of his team

representing the nation, try telling that to millions of proud

Canadian hockey fans who have transferred their allegiances from

the Maple Leafs or the Oilers to Calgary's band of overachievers

for the spring.

And never mind that the Flames have a Finnish goalie and two

Americans in their regular starting lineup, or that every NHL team

has a roster crowded with Canadians: They prefer to root for the

home team in the Great White North.

And Sutter never would acknowledge any satisfaction in

dispatching the team that fired him just 17 months ago -- but the

coach wore a broad smile after his team clinched his first trip to

the Stanley Cup finals.

Game notes

After taking a 3-0 lead on the Colorado Avalanche in the second round of the playoffs, the Sharks lost six of their final nine postseason games. ... Aerosmith, in town for a show Thursday, watched the game from a luxury suite.