San Jose and Calgary renewed the rivalry they began in the 2004 Western Conference Finals Saturday night in Alberta. With San Jose playing their second game in as many nights, the Flames made an early Chris Simon tally stand up until Jarome Iginla added a late insurance goal to make the final 2-0.
Evgeni Nabokov took to the nets for the first time since returning from representing Russia in the Olympics and Scott Hannan rejoined the club after missing the last contest due to the death of a family member.
The Flames would jump on the scoreboard first when three minutes in, big Chris Simon corralled a loose puck. Nabokov had turned away two strong Calgary chances on the possession, but the puck wasn’t cleared and when Simon found it, he easily made the score 1-0.
Nabokov showed he would remain strong despite the early goal when one minute later he turned away a sniping attempt by Flames winger Tony Amonte.
The Sharks looked for an opportunity of their own, but Milan Michalek couldn’t quite control a lead pass that led him just a bit too much.
Then after Team Teal killed off the game’s first power play following an Ekman penalty, Patrick Marleau
nearly connected on a two-on-one rush. Kiprusoff deflected the shot before it could hit the second attacker.
Back-to-back penalties to Shean Donovan and Darren McCarty set up a Sharks five-on-three power play that lasted 1:35. The chances came fast and furious as Joe Thornton
, Marleau and Jonathan Cheechoo all put strong shots on Miikka Kiprusoff, but the Finnish netminder turned away every opportunity.
Late in the period, Kyle McLaren almost connected on an across ice pass to Cheechoo near the front of the net, but Kiprusoff intercepted the puck and the chance was denied.
Calgary is the second best first period club defensively in the NHL and they backed it up by taking a 1-0 lead into the break.
The second period started with an early Flames power play, but the special teams kept the play on the perimeter and the advantage easily faded away.
Nabokov made two big saves, one on an unattended slapshot from the high slot, in the period’s first seven minutes to keep it a one-goal contest.
When former Sharks player Bryan Marchment was called for roughing after he struck Michalek in the back of the head, the Sharks looked to score while up a man. The best chance on the power play came when Joe Thornton
laid into a blast from the right side with Ekman in front, but Kiprusoff somehow found the puck and preserved his shutout to that point.
A brilliant individual move by Marcel Goc almost evened the contest, but the Calgary netminder made a spectacular glove save to keep the young German off the scoreboard.
On the defensive end, Amonte was skating into the Sharks zone at full speed when McLaren cut over in his direction. McLaren didn’t get all of his target, but he did get enough to separate the puck and the opportunity.
Nabokov played strong during a late four-on-four situation in the second period where the ice was tilted in his direction. Then, with Calgary on the power play for the final minute of the second stanza, he turned away two excellent Flames chances to keep San Jose within one tally.
San Jose was outshooting the Flames after two periods, but was still being held scoreless after 40 minutes.
The Sharks were forced to kill off three straight Calgary power plays to begin the third period, and on all three, Nabokov and the penalty killers did what was necessary and that was keeping the contest within one. The final penalty was finished with Marcel Goc and Niko Dimitrakos streaked toward the Calgary zone with numbers. Dimitrakos was held up and the opportunity was finished as well, but so was the Flames power play. It provided the Sharks 1:20 of power play time, but they could not convert.
With just under seven minutes remaining, the Sharks were forced to play shorthanded, but even in that situation, they were looking for chances to tie the affair. While pressing from the blueline, a gamble failed, sending the Flames in on a two-on-zero rush. Jarome Iginla carried the puck forward and had all the time in the world to beat Nabokov for the 2-0 lead late in the game.
San Jose pulled Nabokov late to try an pull off a rally, but it was to no avail as the Flames finished off the 2-0 victory.
Sharks equipment man Kurt Harvey celebrated his 1,000th professional hockey game, 712 with San Jose, during the contest.
The Sharks will travel to Anaheim Saturday following the Calgary game, but won’t play until Tuesday night in Orange County. The game will be broadcast on FSN Bay Area, 98.5 KFOX and sjsharks.com.