TAMPA, Fla. - No, Canada. The Stanley Cup not only isn't headed north, the Tampa Bay Lightning are taking it south. Ruslan Fedotenko scored twice, including the critical first goal just as he did in the conference finals, and the resilient Lightning held off the Calgary Flames 2-1 in Game 7 Monday night to win their first Stanley Cup.
The Flames, threatening to become one of the most unlikely champions in NHL history, were held to only seven shots in a dismal first two periods before making a frantic late surge started by Craig Conroy's power-play goal midway through the third.
"We just tried to get through it, and we found a way," Lightning coach John Tortorella said. "I've never been through something so enduring. It's unbelievable. It's a great feeling."
Now the question is how long the Lightning will rule. The NHL's labor agreement runs out Sept. 15, and all signs point to a lengthy lockout that will significantly delay or shut down the 2004-05 season.
"We're going to walk forever together (as champions), no matter what happens from now on," Martin St. Louis said.
Tortorella insisted throughout the finals his team would win only if his best players outplayed Calgary's, and they did exactly that.
Fedotenko scored on goals created by Conn Smythe Award winner Brad Richards and Vincent Lecavalier and goalie Nikolai Khabibulin held off Calgary's late flurry while stopping 16 shots. The Lighting also shut down Flames star Jarome Iginla.
Iginla, the impact player of the first five games, all but disappeared in the final two, going the last six periods without a shot. Iginla scored a playoff-leading 13 goals, but had only one in the final four games.
Tampa Bay, an expansion franchise in 1992 and one of the league's worst teams for much of the time since, joined the 2001 Avalanche as the only teams to overcome a 3-2 deficit in the finals in 33 years.
Maybe it's only coincidence, but in each series a 22-season veteran who had never won the Cup finally did so. Colorado's Ray Bourque did it in 2001, and 40-year-old Lightning captain Dave Andreychuk finally lifted the Cup after playing a record 1,758 games without winning it.
Bourque called the Lightning's Tim Taylor on Saturday to offer advice in overcoming the 3-2 disadvantage and encouragement to Andreychuk.
"It's awesome," Andreychuk said. "It took me 29 years (of hockey) to get here, and I'm so proud of our guys because we got a Game 7 at home because we worked hard all year long."
The Lightning also ended their record 13-game streak of alternating winning and losing by winning Game 6 on the road 3-2 in overtime and Game 7 at home.
Lightning owner Bill Davidson now can pull off a previously unseen single-season sweep of the NBA and NHL titles. His Detroit Pistons lead the Lakers 1-0 in the NBA Finals.
The Flames, going for a 11th road victory in 14 playoff games, were convinced that failing to close out the finals Saturday in hockey-obsessed Calgary wouldn't cost them the Cup, since the home team had won only twice in the series. But home ice did matter - just as it almost always does in Game 7.
Home teams are 11-2 in finals Game 7s and 10-1 since 1950, with only the 1971 Montreal Canadiens winning on the road in the last 54 years.
Once again, there's no place like home ice in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals.
"In the end, they just had more legs than we did. We were beaten by a great team," Flames coach Darryl Sutter said. "I thought our guys played great."
The team scoring first won every game in the series, so Tampa Bay got a huge confidence boost when Fedotenko scored on a power play 13:31 into the first - much like he scored the go-ahead goal in a 2-1 victory over Philadelphia in the Eastern Conference finals.
Richards' shot from the point was kicked away by Miikka Kiprusoff to Fedotenko in the slot, and he lined a shot past the goalie, who stopped 13 of 15 shots.
That goal was one of several uncharacteristic Calgary defensive breakdowns as the Lightning forced the play from the start, limiting the Flames to only three shots in the first period and four in the second.
Robyn Regehr, Calgary's most dependable defenseman, played despite apparently injuring an ankle or foot in Game 6 and was on the ice for Fedotenko's goal.
Fedotenko's second of the game and third of the finals was created by a dazzling bit of stickhandling by Lecavalier, who hadn't figured in any scoring since Game 2. Lecavalier took Cory Stillman's pass in the left corner, spun around to shed Steve Montador and another defender and put a perfect pass on Fedotenko's stick in the slot with about 5 1/2 minutes left in the second period.
Notes:@ The Flames would have been the first Stanley Cup champion with a losing home record (5-7). ... The 1995 Devils remain the only team to win the Cup without having home-ice advantage in any of the four rounds. Sixth-seeded Calgary could have been the second. The Flames also failed to become the first team to eliminate four division champions. ... No Stanley Cup finals Game 7 has gone to overtime since 1954. ... The team scoring first won each of Calgary's last 16 games. ... Tampa Bay is 14-2 when scoring first. ... Flames RW Shean Donovan missed his second straight game with an undisclosed leg injury