SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) _ According to the schedule, the Calgary Flames are
headed home with a chance to close out the Western Conference finals.
In reality, the Flames have made themselves at home everywhere except
Calgary in the playoffs _ and that's working out just fine for the NHL's most
surprising road warriors.
Jarome Iginla got things started with a short-handed goal, Miikka Kiprusoff
got his fourth shutout of the playoffs, and the Flames beat the San Jose Sharks
3-0 Monday night in Game 5 to take a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series.
With their eighth road victory of the postseason, the Flames are closing in
on the NHL record of 10 road playoff wins, set by the New Jersey Devils in 1995
and 2000. What's more, they're doing it in style _ dominating the Sharks for
the second straight time in San Jose while rebounding from consecutive losses
Maybe the Flames' white jerseys just fit better. Maybe they burn boos for
fuel. Maybe they love the silence of a building full of disheartened fans.
For whatever reason, the Flames are thoroughly enjoying the comforts of
``It's definitely different, what we're doing this year,'' said Iginla, who
leads the NHL with 16 postseason points. ``I can't put my finger on why it's
working out this way. I don't think anybody can. It's kind of fun, though.''
Game 6 is Wednesday night in Calgary, where the Sharks will face elimination
for the first time in the postseason. The Flames have been in plenty of tight
spots already this spring: All three of their playoff series were tied after
four games, and Calgary won all three Game 5s.
The visiting team has won every game in the series.
Playing with confidence and yet another 2-0 first-period lead at the
sold-out Shark Tank, the sixth-seeded Flames moved to the brink of their first
trip to the Stanley Cup finals since 1989, when they won the franchise's only
championship. Calgary hopes to be Canada's first representative in the finals
Marcus Nilson also scored in the first period, while Iginla and Craig Conroy
scored unassisted goals resulting from inexcusable mental lapses by the Sharks,
who lost all the poise they showed in their two victories at the Saddledome.
``Where that performance came from, I really have no idea,'' Sharks coach
Ron Wilson said. ``It wasn't one or two guys. It was almost the whole team
struggling. You have to give Calgary some credit, but we really did a pretty
good job of shooting ourselves in the foot with some very elementary
Evgeni Nabokov made 18 saves for the Sharks, who have lost four straight
home playoff games. The Sharks seemed confident following a dominant 4-2
victory in Game 4 _ but 24 hours later, San Jose fell behind early and never
showed much life. The Sharks' fans booed them off the ice after each of the
final two periods.
``We didn't play hard, and I can't explain that,'' center Vincent Damphousse
said. ``We've been battling the odds ever since the beginning of the series,
and we'll try to do it again. There's a lot of things we can do better. We just
have to keep winning road games. That seems to be the trend.''
Kiprusoff, pulled before the third period of Game 4, was barely tested by
the sleepwalking Sharks, who had only a handful of scoring chances among their
``Things change fast here,'' Kiprusoff said. ``It's never fun when they pull
you, but when I got pulled, I was already thinking about today's game.''
Iginla's NHL-leading ninth goal of the playoffs resulted from two mental
errors typical of the mistakes made by San Jose at home in the last two weeks.
The Sharks were settling into their first power play when Damphousse's slow
pass along the blue line was intercepted by Iginla. He outskated two Sharks to
the opposite net and slid the puck under Nabokov, who panicked and flopped on
the ice while trying to stop the postseason's leading scorer.
Nilson, named to the Swedish team for the World Cup of Hockey earlier in the
day, scored his second goal of the series on a broken play two minutes later.
Conroy added his fifth goal of the postseason midway through the second
period when Sharks defenseman Kyle McLaren loafed after a deflection. Conroy
sped past him for a two-on-one with Iginla, then beat Nabokov from the slot.
``Their top line played really well in our building (in Game 4), so we said
we've got to do the same thing in here,'' Conroy said. ``It feels a lot farther
away than just one win. We know we've got a lot of work to do.''