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Sharks douse Flames, tie series 2-2

by Brian Compton and John Kreiser

Joe Thornton scored with just 9.4 seconds left in regulation to give the San Jose Sharks a 3-2 win over the Calgary Flames in Game 4, evening their Western Conference quarterfinal series.
WATCH highlights from the Sharks' win
The San Jose Sharks dominated Calgary virtually from the opening faceoff. It took them until 9.4 seconds before the final horn to turn that dominance into a victory.

Joe Thornton’s first goal of the playoffs with less than 10 seconds left gave the Sharks a come-from-behind 3-2 win over the Flames at the Pengrowth Saddledome on Thursday night, tying their Western Conference quarterfinal series at two wins each.

The Sharks showed little effect from a devastating 4-3 loss in Game 3 on Sunday night, a game in which they blew a 3-0 lead. San Jose outshot the Flames 32-10, but was less than five minutes away from falling behind 3-1 in the series before Jonathan Cheechoo tied the game with 4:54 remaining in regulation. His bad-angled shot made its way through a pile of bodies and found a hole between goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff’s shoulder and the crossbar.

“We were all over them in the third period,” San Jose defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic said after the Sharks held the Flames to their fewest shots ever in a playoff game.

The Sharks completely controlled the play after that, but the game appeared to be headed for overtime before defenseman Douglas Murray teed up a straightaway slap shot from just inside the blue line. Thornton deflected the puck out of the air and past Kiprusoff.

“I was just standing in front of the net, and Dougie made a great shot,” Thornton said. “I was able to get my stick on it. It was textbook hockey.” Said Calgary defenseman David Hale, who had tried and failed to clear the puck before the goal: “He’s a big body, and he posted up in front of the net. When he gets there, you can’t move him.”

The series moves back to San Jose for Game 5 on Thursday. The Flames will have to work a lot harder than they did at home to avoid coming back to Calgary on Sunday trying to avoid being eliminated.

''Any time you get outshot 32-10 at home, that means you didn't come to work and you didn't put in the effort,'' Flames coach Mike Keenan said. ''We carried some play early, but it was all San Jose after that. The completely outplayed us.''

The Flames were outshot 6-2 in the opening period, but matched the Sharks hit for hit and got the period’s only goal when Jarome Iginla fired a rebound past Evgeni Nabokov at 3:19. It was the Flames’ last shot of the period; they didn’t get their third of the game for almost 24 minutes.

The Sharks upped the intensity in the second period and tied the game at 10:56 on a power-play goal by Ryane Clowe, who got his fourth of the playoffs on a backhand redirect of Patrick Marleau’s power-play point shot.

San Jose continued to dominate play, but Kiprusoff kept them off the scoreboard — and the Flames went ahead 2-1 at 18:29 when Iginla won a faceoff back to Dion Phaneuf, whose shot from the point went through traffic and past Nabokov.

The Sharks completely controlled the third period, but nearly went home empty before the late goals by Cheechoo and Thornton.

''After the first period, we settled down and had a great second period and said to ourselves, 'If we come out and have a great third period, we can really get back in this game,''' Thornton said. ''We just kept pounding shots at Kipper — and Cheech, what a shot that was.

“The game's not over until that buzzer rings, and we played right to the end tonight.''

Ducks look like champs again in 4-2 win | Video
The Anaheim Ducks had spent three days contending that their Western Conference quarterfinal series against Dallas was far from over, despite two home losses to the Stars. On Tuesday, they backed up their words with their best game of the series.

Chris Pronger scored a pair of power-play goals as Anaheim raced to a four-goal lead, then survived a Dallas rally for a 4-2 victory in Game 3, cutting the margin in the best-of-7 series to 2-1. Game 4 is set for Thursday night at the American Airlines Center, where the Stars have lost seven of their last eight playoff games.

The Ducks came out banging and crashing, looking nothing like the team that sleepwalked through most of the first two games of the series at Anaheim.

“We were able to establish our forecheck,” coach Randy Carlyle said of the difference between the first two games and Game 3. “We had some offensive-zone time with the puck. We didn’t have that in the first two games.”

Also raising his level of play was goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere, who allowed nine goals in the two losses but was flawless until Brenden Morrow scored two power-play goals 99 seconds apart early in the third period. Dallas had a chance to get closer when Mathieu Schneider drew a four-minute high-sticking penalty for accidentally cutting Morrow, but Giguere made four saves during the long power play and the Stars were unable to get any closer.

"They had just scored their two goals and were gaining momentum," Pronger said of the key penalty kill. "We needed to clamp down and make sure we weren't allowing those seam passes and those cross-crease passes. That's where they've been getting most of their really good scoring chances, especially on the power play. It was just a matter of us tightening up the box."

The Ducks scored three goals on four shots in the first 14:31 against Marty Turco, who was almost flawless in the two wins at Anaheim — during which Pronger was basically a non-factor. But he made his presence felt early in Game 3, forcing a turnover by Dallas defenseman Mattias Norstrom that turned into an assist when Travis Moen picked up the puck and fed Todd Marchant, who beat Turco for a 1-0 lead at 6:39.

Norstrom made a bigger mistake a couple of minutes later from the same corner, when his errant pass was intercepted by Ryan Getzlaf, who beat Turco with a backhander at 10:09 for a 2-0 lead.

"We looked jittery and made some uncharacteristic mistakes," Dallas coach Dave Tippett said. "The reality check came in tonight about how hard this series is going to be."

The two goals took a lot of the life out of the AAC, and Pronger made things even quieter at 14:31, when he converted a centering pass from Todd Bertuzzi during a power play for a 3-0 lead.

"We couldn't afford to have a weak start to the game in their building," Giguere said. "We knew they would have energy, so we wanted to start strong. Fortunately, we were able to score some goals. It makes your life easier that way."

Pronger made it 4-0 at 5:34 of the second period when he beat Turco from the high slot during a 5-on-3 power play.

Dallas’ power play, which scored six times in the two games in Anaheim, finally gave the Stars some life in the third period. Morrow poked the puck past Giguere after Mike Riberio's cross-ice pass to Mike Modano with 14:17 left. Dallas was quickly back on the power play, and Morrow knocked in a rebound 99 seconds later when Modano's shot bounced off the goalie and onto the stick of the Stars captain.

"There were 45 minutes where we played well," Morrow said. "We battled hard, outshot them and maybe outchanced them. The third period, we got some momentum and we'll look to use that on Thursday."

Tippett wasn’t happy with the outcome, but he also preferred to look ahead rather than behind.

“I’m disappointed in losing,” he said, “but we’re in fix-it mode, not angry mode.”

Pronger said the Ducks knew they had to make changes after not playing well in Anaheim.

"This is a veteran group and we understood the liabilities of the first couple of games, the mistakes we made," Pronger said. "We did a good job correcting those the first 33 or 35 minutes.”

Avalanche bury Wild in 5-1 rout | Video
After losing back-to-back overtime games, the Colorado Avalanche had an easy night. The Avs got goals from five players and capitalized in Minnesota’s turnovers and the Wild’s parade to the penalty box in a series-tying 5-1 victory.

Unlike the first three games, all of which ended in OT — Colorado won the series opener and the Wild won the next two — this one was over early.

Andrew Brunette deflected Ruslan Salei's shot from the left circle into the net just 4:01 into the game and Wojtek Wolski made it 2-0 at 5:37 after Colorado enforcer Ian Laperriere forced a turnover from the right corner. When Keith Carney tried to clear the puck, it went straight to Wolski, who scored from the right circle.

Another Minnesota turnover led to Colorado's third goal when Joe Sakic and Peter Forsberg corralled the puck in the neutral zone. Tyler Arnason swept in, picked it up at the Wild's blue line and fired it hard past Niklas Backstrom from the high slot at 11:08.

The Avs wound up outshooting the Wild 18-7 in the first 20 minutes.

“We’ll take it,” Colorado coach Joel Quenneville said of the fast start. “It doesn’t happen often against that team.

“We had a strong period. It’s not often that starts are that important to an outcome, but this one was.”

Minnesota coach Jacques Lemaire placed much of the blame for his team’s dreadful first period on his defensemen.

"Why we were in this series and have had a lot of success up until now was because our defensemen have played at their best," Lemaire said. "And tonight that didn't happen. All of our defensemen lacked energy."

Colorado cashed in two of its power-play chances in the second period.

Salei powered the puck past Backstrom from the left point to make it 4-0 at 7:42. The Avs failed to score on a 5-on-3 advantage, but made it 5-0 at 16:14 on another power play when Milan Hejduk took a perfect pass from Ryan Smyth and fired it past Backstrom, who stopped 24 shots before being hooked after two periods.

The Avs had a bevy of power-play chances in a third period filled with scrums and altercations. But the only goal was scored by Minnesota’s Mikko Koivu, whose shorthanded tally at 3:11 spoiled Jose Theodore’s shutout. Theodore made 24 saves.

The Avalanche finished the night with 13 power plays as the Wild piled up 111 penalty minutes.

"I couldn't wait until that game got over," Lemaire said. "I knew there was nothing we could do. The game got ugly, the guys got frustrated ... and it never stopped.

"We'll try to get together tomorrow and get ourselves back on the right track."

Forsberg is under no illusions that the rest of the series will be this easy.

“It’s 2-2 now,” he said. “We have to go there and try to win. I don’t think it will be like this in the next game.”

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

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