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Sharks earn playoff berth in shootout loss to Flames

by Aaron Vickers

CALGARY -- Despite a 2-1 shootout loss to the Calgary Flames on Monday night, the San Jose Sharks had reason to celebrate.

In earning a point with the loss, San Jose still managed to clinch a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the 10th straight season. The Sharks own the second longest postseason streak in the NHL behind the Detroit Red Wings (22 seasons). They're also in the running for a seventh Pacific Division title. San Jose currently has a two-point lead on the Anaheim Ducks, though the Ducks hold two games in hand.

"It was probably an inevitability," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "There is satisfaction in clinching. That was one of the goals that we set out to do, and they've accomplished that. It would've been nice to get the two points, obviously we're in a heck of a race for other things, so that's a little bit disappointing, but we have to move on."

The Sharks lost forward Logan Couture to a lower-body injury in the second period. He blocked two shots by Flames defenseman Mark Giordano in the first period, and then took the ice for a shift at 12:12 of the second period, but did not return after that.

"He blocked a shot," McLellan said of Couture. "I don't know if he will play tomorrow, but he's fine."

The Flames offense has been the most potent since the NHL Trade Deadline, but it was their defense that helped them prevail Monday.

Mike Cammalleri scored in the third round of the shootout and Karri Ramo stopped James Sheppard on the Sharks' next shootout attempt for the win.

"It's a lot of fun to be playing at home right now," said Joe Colborne, who scored Calgary's lone goal in regulation. "The crowds have been awesome all year, and we're just happy that we're putting a good show on for them and showing them, hopefully, many good things to come.

"It's a fun time for us right now. We're having a good time and enjoying playing the spoiler right now. Every game is an opportunity to grow. We're trying to treat this as our playoffs. Hopefully, in years to come, it will be that we're fighting with them for a conference lead or a division lead."

Though he saw his three-game goal-scoring streak and seven-game point streak snapped, Cammalleri still found a way to help the Flames win.

The Calgary forward skated in on Sharks goalie Alex Stalock before hesitating and firing a shot over the goaltender's glove for the deciding goal in the shootout. It held up as the winner after Ramo's pad save on Sheppard denied San Jose of an NHL-best 11th victory in the tiebreaker.

Following a 3-2 shootout defeat to the Washington Capitals on Saturday, the Sharks have lost back-to-back games for the first time since doing so on consecutive nights to the Edmonton Oilers and Flames in late January.

Ramo made 33 saves, including 17 in the first period. Only Sheppard beat him Monday night in regulation, overtime and the shootout.

"Every time we take a look at the Sharks, I think they are leading the shots, they have more shots in the game," Ramo said. "They played really aggressive. I think they played really well, but we managed after a bad first period. We really were able to turn it around and get out of the pressure."

San Jose opened the scoring late in the first.

Matt Nieto's centering pass off a rush hit Sheppard in the back and dropped at the feet of the Sharks forward, who promptly deposited the puck behind Ramo to put the Sharks up 1-0 with 1:49 remaining in the opening period.

"[Nieto] made a superstar move jockeying him across like that," Sheppard said. "I was hoping he was going to do that. When you do, sometimes you get lucky bounces. I wasn't sure, I just looked down and the goalie was out of position."

Stalock, who was tested eight times in the opening 20 minutes, faced a more frequent barrage from the Flames in the second. He was forced to make back-to-back pad saves on Brian McGrattan and Kevin Westgarth seven minutes in. Stalock followed it up by robbing Kris Russell, alone in the slot, with a stick save at 10:24.

But he couldn't stop Colborne at 18:00. Colborne took a backdoor pass through a seam from Tyler Wotherspoon at the opposite point and slammed a wrister just under the crossbar to tie the game 1-1.

"That's an all-star play right there," Colborne said of the pass. "Not too many guys can fake a shot, head up, and find me back door, flat pass through the seam. That was an all-world play."

Each team had chances to take the lead in the third. Coming in 2-on-1 near the midway mark of the period, Jiri Hudler fed a pass to Curtis Glencross, whose backhand and pair of rebound attempts couldn't beat Stalock. On the next shift, Sharks center Joe Pavelski won the draw directly to Marty Havlat, who clanked his shot off the crossbar.

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