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Analysis: Six in a row too much

by Mike Board / Calgary Flames
SAN JOSE -- The Calgary Flames unlucky number Thursday in San Jose was six.

The head coach was biting his tongue.

"I'll share those thoughts with the league and the supervisor of officials," said Flames skipper Mike Keenan when asked about the Flames being penalized six straight times in the second period of Game 2 of their Western Conference Quarter Final Series against the San Jose Sharks Thursday at the HP Pavilion.

The Calgary Flames bench looks as fans cheer behind them in the closing seconds of a loss to the San Jose Sharks in an NHL hockey Western Conference playoff series in San Jose, Calif., Thursday, April 10, 2008. San Jose won 2-0. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
The captain wasn't biting his tongue as much.

"To be honest, we don't agree with all of them," said Jarome Iginla after the intial mob of reporters had swarmed his locker.

Six was the number of consecutive penalties -- all minors -- referees Marc Joanette and Tim Peel dealt the Flames. And, when you are playing against a team with the talent of the San Jose Sharks, that's bound to be a game-breaker. It was as the Flames fell 2-0.

"We got ourselves into penalty trouble and we had a couple of things go against us," said Iginla.

The somewhat odd parade of penalties -- for the first four periods of this series the teams were permitted to play hockey -- began with the oddest penalty of the game. It was a holding call on Flames goalie Miikka Kiprusoff -- who either did grab Joe Thornton's stick or Joe Thornton got his stick tangled in Kiprusoff. Either way the Flames goalie was called.

"I kinda did grabbed it a little but he did a good job," said Kiprusoff of Thornton's sell of the hold.

Couldn't blame Kiprusoff, though. He'd seen more sticks whack at covered pucks than get thrown on a good, old-fashioned bonfire. The Sharks gameplan was to make Kiprusoff's job in Game 2 of the seven game series more difficult than in Game 1. They wanted traffic to the net. They got it, but much of it was after the whistle when players like Mike Grier and Jody Shelley and Patirkc Marleau took extra jabs at the puck.

So, when Thornton brushed Kiprusoff, the goalie let out the frustration.

And then he proceeded to shut down the Sharks on the ensuring power play, stoning Marleau and Company at every turn. At the time the Flames were down by a goal and killing off a penalty taken by Kiprusoff could have been a turning point in favour of the visitors.

But the Flames were hit with five more penalties, including a call when they were already down two players.  Their complaints fell on deaf ears.

To wit: Jarome Iginla, holding, 8:37. David Hale, crosschecking, 11:23. Kristian Huselius, hooking, 14:17. Stephane Yelle, crosschecking, 15:09. Jim Vandermeer, slashing, 15:33.

"I think we were getting frustrated the way the calls were going," said Vandermeer. "I think the guys were battling. We might have got too aggressive and took a couple of stick penalties, the slashing and crosschecks."

A valiant effort by  Kiprusoff in the Flames net and penalty killers like Craig Conroy, Cory Sarich, Robyn Regehr and Dion Phaneuf among others, just wasn't enough. With just nine seconds left in the final penalty, to Vandermeer, the Sharks Torrey Mitchell picked up a rebound and scored, staking the Sharks to a 2-0 lead.

At the end of the penalty massacre, the Flames had spent 10:27 of the first 40 minutes killing penalties. A full two minutes of that was two men down.

The Flames, at that point in the game, had spent 35 seconds with the man advantage. Any way you slice those numbers cant be good for the Flames.

"It was good hockey in this series until the second period," said Keenan. "I'm biting my tongue here. We had a good first period. The imbalance of it all took place in the second period."

And the results were in the pudding, so to speak. The Sharks fired a team record 27 shots on the Flames goal in the second period. Eighteen of them were on the power play. The Flames managed just three shots.

"Shots are skewed," said Iginla. "On a power play like that you are going to get a lot of shots."

In return the Sharks received three consecutive penalties -- one at the tail end of the second and two more before the mid-point of the third period. The Sharks march to the box, however, ended at 9:41 when Flames forward Matthew Lombardi was called for hooking.

By the time the final buzzer went the Sharks had gne 1-10 with the man advantage in 16:13 of power play time. The Flames went 0-4 in 6:20 with the man advantage.

Five-on-five, this game was close.
Calgary Flames right wing Owen Nolan (11) is unable to score past San Jose Sharks goalie Evgeni Nabokov in the third period in Game 2 of an NHL hockey Western Conference playoff series, Thursday, April 10, 2008, in San Jose, Calif. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)

The Flames had weathered the expected San Jose attack in the first period and had two of the best scoring chances in the period -- a Cory Sarich re-direct off a cross-ice pass and a Jarome Iginla wrist shot off the rush in the dying seconds of the first period.  Sharks goalie Evgeni Nabokov made two stellar saves to keep his team even with the Flames.  He then robbed Owen Nolan with 4:51 remaining with the glove save of the series on a night that was not meant to be for the Flames.

Coming out of the first with a 0-0 tie was good for the road warriors.

What was in store as far as penalties in the second, was not good for the road warriors. So the Flames will return to Calgary with a split in the series which is becoming increasingly more physical and increasingly more hostile.

The next installment is Sunday at the Pengrowth Saddledome and the Flames will hit the ice knowing they have been reminded that penalties can kill you.

But they are far from discouraged.

"We are out of here with a split. The guys are playing tough, playing hard," said Iginla.

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