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Sharks clinch Pacific title, Flames eliminated

by John Kreiser
The chorus of boos and the tiny pocket of cheers at the Pengrowth Saddledome at the final buzzer on Tuesday night said it all.

The sellout crowd loudly made their feelings known as time expired and the San Jose Sharks held on for a 2-1 victory over Calgary -- potentially taking the Flames' playoff hopes with them

"We all feel like we failed and we did fail," captain Jarome Iginla said after the Flames' 25th game of the season in which the team scored less than two goals. "First of all, our goal was to get to the playoffs. That's not an easy accomplishment. There are good teams that are out and are over .500."

While the Sharks celebrated winning another Pacific Division title and no worse than the second seed in the Western Conference when the Stanley Cup playoffs start next week, the Flames were reduced to hoping that the Vancouver Canucks could beat Colorado.  It didn't happen -- the Avs won 4-3 in a shootout at GM Place to officially knock the Flames out of the playoffs for the first time since 2003.

"We've been in too many 2-1 games. Those are the hardest where you think "just one shot". It's just one shot and we haven't found it this year in the close ones. This one stings a lot," Iginla said.

Evgeni Nabokov finished with 38 saves for the Sharks, making goals by Rob Blake and Jamie McGinn stand up.

"I think we owe this one to Nabby tonight," McGinn said. "He stood on his head."

San Jose got a power-play goal by Blake at 10:15 of the first period on a screened blast from the high slot to take a 1-0 lead. The Sharks got what proved to be the game-winner 5:47 into the second period when McGinn fished Logan Couture's rebound out of Miikka Kiprusoff's pads, stepped to his left and banged it into a wide-open net.

Calgary did little offensively against Nabokov through two periods. But with their season on the line, the Flames came out with a renewed sense of desperation in the third.

They got within 2-1 when Blake was called for delaying the game for shooting the puck into the crowd and Rene Bourque tipped Jay Bouwmeester's point shot behind Nabokov for his 26th of the season at 4:20.

The puck spent most of the rest of the night in the Sharks' zone, but Nabokov was unbeatable despite Calgary's 17-2 advantage in shots in the third period.

"I really thought we were going to come all the way back and win a close one," Iginla said. "We gave a big push there, we never quit and we thought we were going to get it right until the end and we had different chances and unfortunately, we didn't capitalize."

The win gave the Sharks 109 points, two more than the Chicago Blackhawks, who won 5-2 at Dallas. However, Chicago has a game in hand and would likely finish with more victories, giving the Hawks the top seed if the teams end up even in points.

"We had a very good first two periods and in the third we got what we expected from them, everything they could throw at us," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "We spent some time in our zone but we were good around the net, didn't give them any second opportunities and when we did, Nabby did his thing."

The Sharks have gone 6-1-1 since a six-game winless skid had temporarily dropped them to second place in the Pacific behind Phoenix.

"That's exactly what we needed," said Nabokov, who's had his ups and downs since play resumed after the Winter Olympics. "I don't think we had one odd-man rush against us and we were pretty disciplined in terms of penalties. That's the type of game we need to play in the playoffs."

Material from team media and wire services was used in this report

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