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Bolts Bounce Back

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May 28, 2004 -- TAMPA If they're going to allow Brad Watson to officiate the Stanley Cup Finals, if this kind of mediocrity is to be rewarded, the league might as well invite the Rangers to the party. Well, OK, maybe that's a bit of a stretch; the Islanders, then.

Working with partner Stephen Walkom, Watson nearly spoiled last night's Game 2 with a succession of unfortunate and indecipherable penalty calls in the opening period that prevented any flow or momentum in the match. If the NHL grading system that sent Watson into Finals is as reliable as its accounting methods, then no financial report it issues can be considered, "irrefutable."

Watson's calls gave the Flames five power plays within the opening 20:53, but perhaps that was too much of a good thing for Team Canada, for despite having the man-advantage for 9:26 of the first 22:53, Calgary could not score; could barely mount an offensive, even.

The repeated failures were debilitating; perhaps deflating. Because even though the Lightning thereafter committed a plethora of defensive zone blunders at even strength, Calgary was unable to take advantage there, either.

Instead, the Lightning were able to ride a far more emotional clip than at which they had performed in its 4-1 Game 1 defeat to register a resounding 4-1 win of their own in a match that boiled over with a succession of brawls, finger-pointing and name-calling throughout the third period, to thus send the series to Calgary even at one for tomorrow night's Game 3.

It will be the first Cup Finals match in Canada since June 11, 1994 when the Canucks defeated the Rangers 4-1 in Vancouver in Game 6 of a series the Rangers would capture at the Garden three nights later.

"Every one of their guys pretty much beat every one of us," Jarome Iginla said. "It doesn't feel good."

If Iginla established the tone for his team on Tuesday, then Vincent Lecavalier certainly did the same for his club last night. With Iginla all but erased as a factor, the Tampa captain raised his level

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