SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) _ Marcus Nilson's shot would have made a pinball
The shot hit Scott Hannan's leg, ricocheted off Jason Marshall's skate and
caromed into the San Jose Sharks' net just 20 seconds after the opening
The goal tilted the Western Conference finals toward the Calgary Flames.
They followed that bit of pure luck with another showcase of tremendous skill _
and now they're halfway to their first Stanley Cup finals in 15 years.
Linemates Nilson, Shean Donovan and Ville Nieminen each had a goal and an
assist, and the Flames remained kings of the playoff road with a 4-1 victory
over the Sharks in Game 2 Tuesday night.
Nilson matched the fastest goal in Calgary's postseason history, but the
resulting blow to the Sharks' psyche was even more important. The accidental
goal put San Jose in a hole it never escaped.
``It's tough to come back from something like that,'' Nilson said. ``But we
did the hard work to back it up, too. We earned the win.''
Donovan scored 10 minutes after Nilson's goal, and Nieminen and captain
Jarome Iginla clinched the victory with third-period goals 44 seconds apart.
That sent the sixth-seeded Flames back home with an improbable 2-0 series lead
over the Pacific Division champions.
``We'd be lying if we said this is what we expected, but it's a tremendous
bonus,'' center Craig Conroy said. ``This is definitely the most special season
I've had, and it just seems like anything can happen now.''
Game 3 is Thursday night at the Saddledome, where the Flames are just 3-3 in
the playoffs. But thanks to a 7-2 road record that includes three straight
wins, they've got a great shot at their first Cup finals since 1989, when they
won the franchise's only championship.
Miikka Kiprusoff followed his 49-save performance in the opener with just 17
saves, including a handful of fine stops in the final minutes. With a fast
start, puck possession and relentless forechecking _ three of San Jose's
hallmarks _ Calgary shocked the sold-out Shark Tank into silence.
``I know from being on the other side of it, you get scored on in the first
minute, it's hard,'' Calgary coach Darryl Sutter said. ``Then you get another
one, and it's not that far removed from where they were down 2-0 in Game 1. It
trickles back in.''
Alyn McCauley scored for the Sharks, who lost consecutive games for just the
second time since early March. After starting the playoffs with seven wins in
eight games, San Jose has lost four of its last five, including three straight
at home. Its first trip to the conference finals has been humiliating so far.
``We've dug a heck of a hole for ourselves, but it's not impossible to get
out,'' said Sharks coach Ron Wilson, who will consider lineup changes for Game
3. ``We have to recapture the style of play that made us successful in the
first two rounds. Hopefully it will be easier to calm the situation down on the
Evgeni Nabokov seemed as off-kilter as his teammates, making 16 saves as the
Sharks lost in regulation for just the second time in the playoffs.
The Flames scored two goals on their first three shots, immediately putting
the Sharks on their heels. San Jose was the NHL's fastest-starting team in the
regular season, leading the league in first-period goal differential. But
Calgary was all over the Sharks in Game 2.
``We didn't do a lot of things we usually do, and they were ready to play,''
said San Jose defenseman Brad Stuart, a minus-2 while playing a terrible game.
``We've chosen to make it tough on ourselves. We have to get back into it the
Donovan, a former Sharks forward, got his fourth goal of the playoffs on a
breakaway. The Flames' second line was a flurry of activity all night, chasing
the puck with a fervor usually shown by the Sharks.
San Jose controlled most of the third period, but the Flames capitalized on
two late defensive breakdowns for goals by Nieminen and Iginla, who scored on
Nabokov for the first time in 14 games against the San Jose netminder.
Sharks captain Patrick Marleau went scoreless in his fifth straight game. He
still leads with seven playoff goals, but has vanished into another one of the
funks that have defined his career.
Sharks defenseman Kyle McLaren was a last-minute scratch with an upper-body
injury. San Jose used rookie defensemen Rob Davison and Tom Preissing in his
place _ and Davison picked up his first NHL playoff point with an assist on