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Kiprusoff wins 300th as Flames edge Sharks 4-3

by Eric Gilmore
SAN JOSE -- Miikka Kiprusoff became the 27th member of the NHL's 300-win club on Wednesday. He's more concerned about carrying the Calgary Flames back to the playoffs.

Kiprusoff made 34 saves and Finnish countryman Olli Jokinen notched his seventh career hat trick in Calgary's 4-3 victory against the San Jose Sharks on Wednesday night.

Kiprusoff stopped 34 shots to beat the team that drafted him in 1995 then traded him to Calgary in 2003 for a second-round draft pick. He survived a wild Sharks onslaught in the final minutes, pinning the puck under his legs on a shot with just over three minutes left.

"It's a nice number," the understated Kiprusoff said of his milestone win. "Right now it's not that big a deal. It's nice, but we have a job to do here. We're fighting for the playoffs, and we need those wins. But, yeah, it's a good number."

The fact that No. 300 came against the Sharks didn't mean "that much" to Kiprusoff.

"It's a long time ago when I played here, but it's a tough building," Kiprusoff said. "It's not easy to get points here, and we played a real good game. We kept playing our own game. Huge, huge two points."

Jokinen scored a goal in each period, including the game-winner at 3:25 of the third to break a 3-3 tie. The hat trick was his second as a Flame and first since March 14, 2009, in a five-point game against Toronto.

Jokinen also assisted on a goal by captain Jarome Iginla as the Flames snapped a five-game series losing streak against San Jose and moved within one point of eighth-place Minnesota in the West. San Jose leads the Pacific Division by two points on Los Angeles.

"It's nice," Jokinen said of his hat trick, "but it's a lot nicer to get the 300th win for Kipper and two points in the standings.

"It's great. This is where he started his career. To be able to get his 300th here. In the big picture, the biggest thing was to get the two points. This is a tough building to get two points."

Logan Couture, Joe Pavelski and Michal Handzus scored for San Jose. Goaltender Antti Niemi stopped 32 shots but fell to 8-2-0 lifetime against Calgary.

Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic -- the player the Sharks acquired with the puck they got from the Flames for Kiprusoff -- appeared to score a game-tying goal with 9:26 left to play, but it was disallowed because of goaltender interference. It was an obvious call, with Sharks winger Patrick Marleau laying on his back inside the Flames' goal.

Coach Todd McLellan was more upset with his team's defensive play.

"We've given up four or more goals 12 times this hear and haven't won yet," McLellan said. "So if we think we can screw around with the puck and we can be lackadaisical with line changes and not be desperate until the last 10 minutes of the game, we'll give up four again and we won't win.

"It's as simple as that. This is two games in a row now that I've felt the opponent had a lot more desperation in their game, especially early, than our group did.
We'll talk about it tomorrow and expect to see a different group on Friday."

The Flames took a 3-2 lead into the third period, but Handzus tied it just 49 seconds into the period, five seconds after a penalty to Flames defenseman Mark Giordano.
Calgary quickly responded, taking advantage of an errant pass from behind the Sharks' net by Colin White that bounced off the wall to Alex Tanguay. He passed the puck to Jokinen, who knocked it past Niemi.

"I was picking up the puck and trying to get it off the boards to buy some time," White said. "It took a harder bounce than I wanted, and I left it right in the middle."

The first two games this season between the Sharks and Flames were hard-fought defensive battles, with Niemi outdueling Kiprusoff each time. The Sharks beat Calgary 2-1 in a shootout at the Shark Tank on Jan. 17 then won 1-0 at Calgary seven days later on Benn Ferriero's goal.

The Sharks and Flames combined to score as many goals in the second period alone as they did in those two games.

"They're a good team, they're at home, they're going to make a push and they did," Iginla said of the Sharks. "You don't expect to not let any goals in. I thought we did a good job of being able to take that pressure and withstand the push and be able to get back some momentum and find a way to get that go-ahead goal a couple of times."

Jokinen had the game's only first-period goal, then put Calgary ahead 2-0 at 2:36 of the second by scoring just 15 seconds into a power play. White lost control of the puck just right of the net and Jokinen made the Sharks pay by jamming it past Niemi.

"We had a good start," Jokinen said. "The first 10 minutes we went after them. We had good chances in the first period. I think when they tied it 2-2 we were able to get a goal back right away. Same when they got their third goal. You have to make a push right away. You can't sit back. Any time you score four, you have a good chance to win."

Jokinen scored three of those goals despite feeling ill.

"It's all mental," Jokinen said. "Block it out and try to do things right and sometimes you get lucky. My linemates played great. I was able to score two empty-net goals. Linemates made good plays and I just happened to be in the right place at the right time. It doesn't matter who scores the goals. You have to play with the team system and tonight was my turn to score. Tomorrow will be somebody else's turn."

Flames coach Brent Sutter said he had no idea that Jokinen was sick.

"Really? Maybe he'll feel the same way tomorrow, then," he said, looking ahead to Thursday night's game at Phoenix. "That line was really good, and Olli, just the way he skated and handled the game, I thought he played a big man's game here. It's like all the teams this time of year. Your top players need to be your top guys, and our guys were again tonight."

The Sharks answered with goals by Couture and Pavelski in a span of 83 seconds. Couture cut the Flames' lead to 2-1 at 6:29 with his team-high 23rd of the season. He took a cross-ice pass from Ryane Clowe in the right circle and beat Kiprusoff with a laser to the far side during a delayed penalty.

Pavelski, playing in his 400th career NHL game, tied it 2-2 at 7:52, taking a Joe Thornton pass from behind the net in the slot and smacking the puck past Kiprusoff for his 20th goal of the season. Pavelski has now scored at least 20 goals in four straight seasons.

The Flames wasted little time before moving back in front on Iginla's 21st goal of the season at 11:15 at the end of a 3-on-2 rush against Sharks defensemen Brent Burns and Douglas Murray. Iginla sent a pass to Jokinen, got the puck back and fired it just inside the left post. After Jokinen put Calgary ahead one last time, Kiprusoff shut down the Sharks for the final 16:35 to earn win No. 300.

"He played outstanding," Iginla said. "He made some huge, huge saves. I know he's won the Vezina before. I don't know if he's played any better than this year the whole year. He's been that good. It's fun to watch. It's great to have him on our team. I honestly don't know if he could play any better this year."

The Sharks, meanwhile, dropped their second straight game, allowing four goals to Calgary after allowing five to Phoenix.

"It's a missed opportunity," Thornton said. "We'd like to say we played good at times. It just wasn't a full 60 (minutes). We'll just get back to playing three good periods and we'll be fine."

One day after he announced his retirement, as a Shark, Owen Nolan dropped the puck during a pre-game ceremony at center ice. Nolan, who played for the Sharks and Flames during his 18-season career, received a long and loud standing ovation from fans and players alike.

Moments later, the puck dropped for real, and both teams came out energized and firing away. The Flames, who had scored two or fewer goals in seven of their previous nine games, outshot the Sharks 16-12 in a fast-paced first period.

The Flames grabbed a 1-0 lead at 12:30 in the first period on Jokinen's 14th goal of the season, a tip-in from just in front of the crease. With Tanguay and Jokinen in front of the net, Flames defenseman Chris Butler launched a rocket from near the blue. Jokinen redirected the puck past a helpless Niemi, extending his points streak to four games.

Kiprusoff was a wall for the Flames in the first, withstanding an early Sharks assault when they outshot the Flames 10-6 to open the game. Late in the period Couture fed a pass in the slot to a wide-open Marleau, who fired a wrist shot that Kiprusoff reached up and snagged it in his glove like a first baseman.

Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle was scratched because of the flu, and Jim Vandermeer replaced him in the lineup, skating in the third D-pair with Justin Braun. White took Boyle's regular spot with Vlasic. "I thought it had a huge impact," McLellan said of Boyle's absence "Danny's a tremendous player; he means a lot to our hockey club, but we should be able to work our way through it."
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