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Sharks beat Flames for seventh straight victory

by Eric Gilmore /

SAN JOSE -- The San Jose Sharks survived a scare from the struggling Calgary Flames on Friday night and continued their climb up the Western Conference standings with a 2-1 victory at HP Pavilion.

The Sharks won their seventh straight game and moved past the Los Angeles Kings into fourth place in the West with 46 points. San Jose matched its season-high winning streak of seven games -- the Sharks also won seven in a row to open the season. They also improved to 6-0-0 on their seven-game homestand, which ends Sunday against the Dallas Stars.

"It moves us up," forward Logan Couture said after the Sharks scored twice in the third period for the win. "The goal is to get to the playoffs and we have to keep winning to get there. We knew this homestand would be really crucial for us this year. We’ve done a good job of it so far. We have one more before we head to the road and it’s a division game so we look forward to that."

Joe Pavelski scored the game-winner -- his team-high fifth of the season -- with just 2:06 left in regulation, knocking the puck past Flames goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff from just to the left of the crease. Sharks forward TJ Galiardi dug the puck out from along the boards and sent it toward the net into a sea of bodies.

Crashing to the ice, San Jose's Brent Burns knocked the puck off his skate to Pavelski, who was in the right place at the right time.

"[Galiardi] did a lot of good work early on," Pavelski said. "He gets it to the net. [Burns] is coming down. He's a huge body. He just creates a lot of traffic. Everyone kind of goes in, the puck squirts out and got an empty net there. It's a great goal. It's one that you love to get and obviously it was timely."

Antti Niemi made 23 saves for the Sharks in his 15th consecutive start and is now 19-8-5 this season.

Mikael Backlund scored Calgary's only goal late in the first period. Kiprusoff made 39 saves in one of his best performances of the season but ended up with the loss.

"Miikka was exceptional in the net," Flames forward Mike Cammalleri said. "He kept us in it and then we got the power-play goal. They did a good job creating offense like they usually do and ultimately cashed in on it. We have to work more on playing in their end instead of ours."

The Flames took a 1-0 lead late in the first period on Backlund's power-play goal, but after a scoreless second period, the Sharks pulled even on Dan Boyle's seventh goal of the season at 2:40 of the third.

Boyle got the puck out of San Jose's zone, sending a pass ahead to Couture along the right boards. Couture sent the puck back to Boyle in the slot, and he unleashed a shot that deflected off Kiprusoff's glove and into the net.

Sharks coach Todd McLellan wasn't happy after a lackluster second period, and he let his players know how he felt during the second intermission.

"The third was a much better period obviously than the second," McLellan said. "We weren’t very pleased with basically the whole 20 minutes in the second. A lot of shortcuts, a lot of looping, nowhere near the goaltender … no net intensity. We tried to cheat the game a little bit and it wasn’t going to work that way. We talked about it. I was happy the way they responded. That’s a good sign. It was a hard fought third just to come out with the points.

Pavelski said the Sharks got back to playing the way they had during their previous six wins, playing relentlessly and getting traffic to the net.

"Coming out, you could feel the intensity going up as a group," Pavelski said. "The forecheck was getting better, more opportunities, second chances. [Couture and Joe Thornton], they each hit crossbars. It felt like it was coming. Boyle gets a big goal for to get the crowd going, get the crowd back into it. On the bench you felt it, you felt it really come alive. Our legs came alive, too."

On paper, this set up as a huge trap game for the Sharks. San Jose had won six in a row and was 13-1-4 at home. Calgary had lost three straight, including an 8-2 debacle at home Wednesday night against the Edmonton Oilers. They were 3-11-2 overall on the road and 0-11-1 in their previous 12 road games.

What's more, the Sharks faced a reeling Flames that team that had a depleted roster and just 30 points. Jarome Iginla, the face of the franchise, defenseman Jay Bouwmeester and forward Blake Comeau were all traded in deals during the week before the trade deadline. The Flames were also without defenseman Mark Giordano, who remained in Calgary with his wife for the birth Thursday night of his son.

Defenseman Brett Carson, called up Thursday from Abbotsford of the American Hockey League, played his first NHL since Dec. 15, 2011. Roman Horak, recalled from Abbotsford on Wednesday, played his second straight game, skating on the top line with Alex Tanguay and Cammalleri.

Still, the Flames gave the Sharks all they could handle.

"It's a dangerous game," Boyle said. "It's one everybody expects you to win. Sometimes those are harder. I thought we had a lot of chances. If we put a few of those away it's a different score. I think that's the difference. We didn't put it away and it was kept close all night."

Calgary certainly didn't play like a team that was buried in the West.

San Jose outshot Calgary 17-10 in the first period, but Backlund scored the only goal at 17:55. After Couture went to the box for hooking Matt Stajan, Backlund won a faceoff with Patrick Marleau in the right circle, sending the puck to Cammalleri.

Cammalleri skated to the high slot and zipped a pass to Backlund, who moved in and wristed a shot from the right circle that beat Niemi to the far side.

The Sharks allowed a power play for the first time since March 23 when they lost 2-0 to the Minnesota Wild.

Kiprusoff is having one of the worst seasons of his career, but he played one of his best games against San Jose, his former team. He entered Friday night's game with a 6-10-2 record, 3.64 goals-against average and .868 save percentage. He was also just a few days removed from a stressful trade deadline where he reportedly told the Flames that he wouldn't report to a new team if they traded him.

"We saw the real Kipper tonight," Flames coach Bob Hartley said. "In the first 10 minutes they came out hard and put a lot of pressure on us. He kept us in the game. When we scored the power play goal I thought that generated some confidence and momentum. I felt we skated well.

"Once the deadline passed, I saw a different person. Tons of pressure fell off his shoulders. He loves it in Calgary. He showed he's one of the best goalies in the league. He made some unbelievable saves."

Just not enough for Calgary to pull off the upset against a surging Sharks team that owns the NHL's longest current winning streak.

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