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Flames shut down slumping Sharks

by Aaron Vickers

CALGARY -- The Calgary Flames have finally found some home-ice advantage.

After losing seven in a row at home, the Flames made it four consecutive victories at Scotiabank Saddledome by beating the goal-starved San Jose Sharks 4-1 on Thursday.

"Sometimes it goes this way," said goaltender Karri Ramo, who made 27 saves. "The main thing is we kept working and nobody gave up when things were bad. Everybody learned from those and we started to do the right things. It's the same thing the other way, now. We can't get too high, just have to focus on doing the same things we've been doing."

Eriah Hayes' first NHL goal 36 seconds into the third period avoided a third consecutive shutout and ended San Jose's scoring drought at 160:36, but it wasn't enough to keep the Sharks from losing their third in a row in a four-day span.

"We're getting tons of chances, great opportunities right in front like that," Hayes said. "It's a little frustrating right now that the bounces aren't going our way. Once the bounces start going our way, we're going to be scoring a lot of goals."

After pouring 59 shots on Ben Scrivens and the Edmonton Oilers in a 3-0 loss on Wednesday, the Sharks got less than half that number against Ramo. They struggled to get pucks on goal in the first period, managing just three by the time Lee Stempniak opened the scoring at 9:41 and finishing the period with eight.

Off the rush, Mikael Backlund turned Matt Irwin inside-out before firing a shot that goalie Alex Stalock kicked right onto the stick of Stempniak, who converted for his eighth of the season and just his second in 25 games to put the Flames up 1-0.

The Sharks -- who came in averaging a League-best 35.3 shots per game -- returned to form in the second by firing 13 at Ramo but fell further behind in part to defenseman Mark Giordano's play at both ends of the ice.

Backlund's initial shot off the rush went well wide of Stalock. But the puck caromed off the end boards, out the other side and onto the stick of Giordano, who beat the Sharks goaltender before he could turn around to get set for the shot 3:38 into the period. The goal extended Giordano's career-best point scoring streak to eight games.

"I wouldn't have believed it [was possible]," he said of his streak. "It just seems like I'm getting a couple of bounces. I'm trying to be aggressive and it seems the puck's coming to me at the right spot."

Giordano was equally important at the other end.

Kris Russell's dump-in struck Stalock in the mask as the Flames went for a line change, but the quick outlet pass that followed sprung James Sheppard in alone on Ramo. Sheppard deked before sliding a backhander along the ice that got through the Flames goaltender, but Giordano shoveled the puck away from Hayes during the ensuing scrum to keep the Sharks scoreless through 40 minutes.

"Just lucky, pulled it off the line," Giordano said. "I don't know how the guy missed the second chance. I was playing goalie at that point, too, and didn't see where it went. I was waiting for them to raise their arms but it didn't happen."

It's the kind of bounce the Sharks haven't been getting of late.

"It was kind of squeaking through and I found the puck behind the goalie there," Hayes said. "I've got to put that one home. Their d-man came out of nowhere and made a nice play. I think it bounced off me, bounced off the post and somehow squirted out. I've got to bear down on that and put it in the back of the net."

San Jose got off the schneid by capitalizing on a turnover by Chris Butler, whose errant clearing attempt from the slot found the stick of Tommy Wingels. He dropped to Patrick Marleau, who fed Hayes for a shot that beat Ramo to make it 2-1 and end San Jose's scoreless streak on the 104th shot of the slump.

"I think we had a little momentum there, especially after getting so many chances the last couple of nights," Hayes said. "It felt good to get one behind the [goalie]. We're getting our chances. We just have to bear down on them."

Stalock, who saw his club-record shutout streak snapped at 178:55 in a 1-0 loss to the Los Angeles Kings on Monday, kept it a one-goal game after staring down Russell second before denying Backlund's one-timer at 6:50.

But rookie Sean Monahan restored the two-goal lead at the 13-minute mark, batting Joe Colborne's pass out of mid-air and behind Stalock for his team-leading 15th of the season. Jiri Hudler ended all doubt about the outcome by hitting the empty net with 1:46 remaining.

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