The San Jose Sharks continue to head for the playoffs. The Calgary Flames are going to have a tough time getting there.
San Jose got two goals apiece by Patrick Marleau and Torrey Mitchell on the way to beating the Flames 6-3 at HP Pavilion on Wednesday night for their fourth consecutive win. Andrew Desjardins had his first NHL goal and Logan Couture also scored as the Sharks increased their Pacific Division lead over second-place Phoenix to three points -- and moved within one of Detroit for the second seed in the West.
The Sharks had four of the six goals scored in a wild first period that left coach Todd McLellan happy but shaking his head.
“The outcome was great. Anytime you score four goals in a period you’ve got to be pleased," he said. "We were a little bit loose for a little while. But we’re coaches. We’re never happy."
While the Sharks have been soaring, the Flames' playoff hopes are flickering out. Despite goals by Jarome Iginla, Cory Sarich and Rene Bourque, Calgary lost for the sixth time in seven games and fell two points behind eighth-place Anaheim. Worse for the Flames is the fact that they have just six games remaining -- fewer than any other playoff contender.
Flames coach Brent Sutter said his team has to focus on winning each game, rather than looking at the big picture.
“Everyone is so focused on the end, instead of the present," he said after his team finished a three-game swing through California with an 0-1-2 record. "The present is to take it game by game. Everyone is looking at how many points you need to have and what you have to do from here on in. We just have to win one game. That has to be our focus. We need to focus on one game and try to win and then go from there.”
Antti Niemi, making his 29th consecutive start for the Sharks, stopped 22 shots as San Jose beat Calgary for the third time in four tries this season.
The Sharks used their highest-scoring first period in more than two years to jump out to a 4-2 lead. The teams took turns scoring before Marleau connected twice in the final 5:01 to give San Jose the lead.
One minute after Sarich's screened slapper beat Niemi to tie the game at 2-2, Marleau put the Sharks ahead to star by beating former teammate Miikka Kiprusoff at 14:59 for his 30th goal of the season. He knocked in a power-play rebound at 17:33 for his second of the night.
"I don't think either team was ready to play defense in the first period," Marleau said. "We're not going to win a lot of games playing like that. In the next eight (regular-season) games and the playoffs, we've got to tighten up things defensively. We'll still get our chances the other way, but we definitely have to do a better job in our own zone."
The four goals were the most in a first period for San Jose since also scoring four against Toronto on Dec. 2, 2008.
“It wasn't a good first period," Sutter said. "We didn't do a lot of things right, and we got off our game. They are a very good hockey team, and they took advantage of it. We can't play that way, obviously.”
Bourque got the Flames within a goal by beating Niemi on a backhanded wraparound at 13:20 of the second period. But Mitchell restored the Sharks' two-goal lead at 15:50, swatting the puck into an empty net after a blind cross-crease pass from Joe Pavelski.
Couture, who had to be helped off the ice with a scary right leg injury in San Jose's previous game, iced it by beating Kiprusoff from near the left faceoff dot with 8:05 remaining, finishing off a 2-on-1 break and giving the first-year forward 28 goals.
In all, 13 of San Jose's 18 skaters had at least one point.
"It was a pretty good effort from a lot of guys," McLellan said.
Material from team media and wire services was used in this report.