San Jose coach Ron Wilson told Jeremy Roenick
that he was counting on the Sharks’ oldest player in Game 7 against Calgary. Roenick more than delivered.
The 37-year-old, who was scratched by Wilson for Game 6, scored two goals and added two assists to power the Sharks to a 5-3 win in the decisive game of their Western Conference semifinal series.
“I was pretty disappointed not to be in Game 6, but I understood why,” said Roenick, who had planned to retire last summer before being talked into playing another season by Sharks G.M. Doug Wilson, a former teammate in Chicago. “But Ronnie texted me and said, ‘J.R., we’re counting on you.’ That meant a lot to me.”
Wilson said he told Roenick well ahead of time that he wouldn’t play Game 6 but would be in the lineup for Game 7 against Calgary or the series opener in the second round, if the Sharks had won their series against the Flames in six games.
“I texted him yesterday and told him I was going to rely on him heavily,” he said.
But even Wilson admitted he got more than he expected.
“Did I expect him to have four points?” he said. “No. I thought he might chip in on the power play. I didn’t expect four points.”
Roenick assisted on Joe Thornton’s first-period power-play goal and scored two of his own in the second period before setting up Devon Setoguchi for what proved to be the game-winner. The four points were the most by a player in a Game 7 since Wayne Gretzky had four for Los Angeles in Game 7 of the 1993 Western Conference finals against Toronto, and the most in a playoff game in Sharks’ history.
Roenick now has six goals and eight points in six Game 7s in his 18-year NHL career.
“He stepped it up,” said Flames coach Mike Keenan, who coached Roenick with Chicago when the Blackhawks made the 1992 Stanley Cup Final against Pittsburgh. “He has responded well in Game 7s historically. He found himself in a position to make a difference, and he did.”
The victory moved the Sharks into the Western Conference semifinals against Dallas, a 4-2 winner over Anaheim in the first round. That series begins Friday night in San Jose.
With the sellout crowd at the Shark Tank roaring from the start, the Sharks made the most of their first power play midway through the opening period. Jonathan Cheechoo had the puck along the goal line and drew a defender to him before finding a wide-open Thornton in the left circle. Thornton roofed a quick wrist shot for a 1-0 lead at 10:57. Roenick had the second assist.
The Sharks’ lead didn’t last long. Jarome Iginla tied the score at 12:33 on Calgary’s first man advantage when Adrian Aucoin’s shot from the point hit the Flames captain and caromed past Evgeni Nabokov.
The Sharks outshot Calgary 14-5 in the first period but had to settle for a 1-1 tie.
The Flames took their first lead of the night 3:33 into the second period when a bad defensive change by the Sharks enabled Owen Nolan to go in alone on a breakaway. Nabokov stopped Nolan’s shot, but the rebound hit Nolan’s leg and deflected into the net. Video review confirmed that the puck hadn’t been deliberately kicked in, and the Flames led 2-1.
Then Roenick took over, sparking a surge that saw the Sharks score four times in less than nine minutes to blow the game open.
The oldest Shark tied the game at 6:04 when his wrist shot from the high slot went through a screen set up by Setoguchi and sailed past Miikka Kiprusoff.
The re-energized Sharks forced Calgary into another penalty and again made the Flames pay. With Thornton and Patrick Marleau creating traffic in front, Roenick wristed a shot that was stopped by Kiprusoff. But the 37-year-old dashed in, found the rebound in the lower left circle and beat a down-and-out Kiprusoff at 9:04 to give San Jose a 3-2 lead.
The Sharks failed on another power play, but took a two-goal lead at 14:01 when Joe Pavelski took a pass from Mike Grier and lifted the puck over Kiprusoff.
Calgary coach Mike Keenan then changed goalies, lifting Kiprusoff in favor of Curtis Joseph — just as he had done in Game 3, when the Flames rallied from an early 3-0 deficit for a 4-3 win. The move didn’t work this time, as Setoguchi took a pass from Roenick near the left hash marks and put a shot between Joseph and the near post at 14:53.
“Miikka didn’t play very well,” Keenan said of his goaltender, who had shut out San Jose in Game 6. “But our team didn’t respond very well either, especially when we got the 2-1 lead. They took control of the game from then on.”
The Sharks finished the period outshooting the Flames 21-8 and leading by three goals.
“To come out and dominate the way we did for three-quarters of the hockey game shows why we finished the year on such a good pace, why we finished second in the League,” Roenick said.
Calgary got one back at 5:18 when Wayne Primeau beat Nabokov, but although they had a mid-period power play and pulled Joseph with about three minutes to play, they generated little pressure on the Sharks’ netminder.
“It wasn’t for lack of effort.” Primeau said of the disappointing outcome. “They were able to score some extra goals.”
Material from wire services and team and League online and broadcast media was used in this report.