Evgeni Nabokov and the Sharks (51-26-4, 106 points) won their fifth straight game, 4-3, over the Flames (43-27-10, 96 points) in regulation, preventing Calgary from clinching the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
With the victory, the Sharks set a new franchise record for most points in a season (106) and pulled within one point of the Pacific-Division-leading Anaheim Ducks who square off in Dallas against the Stars on Friday night.
San Jose looked to pull closer to Anaheim in the Pacific Division title race when they hosted Calgary at HP Pavilion.
Nabokov looked across at Miikka Kiprusoff in net and Ron Wilson used the opportunity to rest Bill Guerin.
During the opening minutes the Clowe-Goc-Bernier line ruffled some feathers in the Calgary zone, but the pushing and shoving did not result in anything more.
Back-to-back Sharks penalties to Mark Bell and Curtis Brown, set Calgary up with 16 seconds of five-on-three time. During the first penalty, Nabokov robbed Jarome Iginla in close and the Sharks held Calgary on the perimeter for most of the four minutes.
Hard work by Jonathan Cheechoo forced Rhett Warrener into a hooking penalty and the Sharks went up a man for the first time on the evening. Calgary killed off the opportunity as they did an ensuing Sharks advantage.
Goals were non-existent in the first 15 minutes, but there was plenty of contact and both club were delivering major hits. Both clubs exchanged power plays late in the stanza, but the game remained scoreless after 20 minutes.
In the second period, Nabokov was forced to make a huge poke-check on Daymond Langkow to keep the game scoreless and then the Sharks looked to pump in the game’s first goal with 1:05 of five-on-three time thanks to David Moss and Brad Stuart penalties. The Flames eliminated the first minor and, subsequently, the second to keep everything even.
When Ryane Clowe
and Dion Phaneuf were sent to the box for matching minors, the Sharks finally struck four-on-four. Joe Thornton
led the rush and found Matt Carle trailing up high. The rookie blueliner then left the puck for a wide-open Milan Michalek in the slot and the Czech winger buried his 25th goal of the season on the Sharks 21st shot of the night.
After waiting 21 shots to score, San Jose made it 2-0 on their 23rd shot. Sharks Captain Patrick Marleau
skated down the wing and stopped while going full-speed to lose his defender. He slipped a pass to Joe Pavelski
out front and “Little Joe” tipped it on net. Kiprusoff stopped the initial shot, but Mark Bell was there to pick up the loose change for his 11th tally of the season.
When Marleau was called for boarding, Calgary cut the Sharks lead to one. Iginla parked himself out front and distracted Nabokov’s ability to stop Kristian Huselius’ point shot, closing the lead to 2-1.
San Jose outshot Calgary 31-18 through 40 minutes and would take their one-goal lead into the break.
The line of Curtis Brown, Mike Grier and Patrick Rissmiller would provide an early insurance tally early in the third. Brown carried the puck into the zone and left if for Grier. The summer free agent signee blasted a one-time from the right faceoff circle and clanged it in off the post.
The Sharks had 16 minutes to protect the 3-1 lead. Instead of sitting back and holding on, Team Teal added another goal. Thornton carried the play behind the net and found Cheechoo on the far side. The Moose Factory product cranked up his shot from close range and beat Kiprusoff to the inside post for his 36th tally of the year. The assist was Thornton’s 90th assist of the season and he joined Mario Lemieux and Wayne Gretzky as the only three players to record 90+ assists in consecutive campaigns.
Near the midway point of the third Nabokov made a strong stop on Langkow right in front of the crease to keep the score 4-1.
The Flames would not quit though and added a second goal thanks to an odd-man rush that Iginla finished with a perfectly placed wrister.
With 4:26 left, Iginla was handed a perfect pass in the slot from Alex Tanguay and he banged it home, closing the gap to 4-3.
The Flames pressured at the end, but two quality saves by Nabokov and a sliding block by Craig Rivet as time expired sealed the 4-3 win for the Sharks.
San Jose will close out the regular season with a 1 p.m. Saturday matinee with Vancouver at HP Pavilion. Limited tickets are still available at the HP Pavilion Ticket Office and at www.ticketmaster.com
. The contest will be available on FSN Bay Area, 98.5 KFOX and sjsharks.com.
|FINAL ||1 ||2 ||3 ||T |
| ||Calgary ||0 ||1 ||2 ||3 |
| ||San Jose ||0 ||2 ||2 ||4 || |
|CGY: ||HUSELIUS, K. (PPG, 10:18 in 2nd), IGINLA, J. (10:49 in 3rd), IGINLA, J. (15:34 in 3rd) |
|SJS: ||MICHALEK, M. (07:50 in 2nd), BELL, M. (09:30 in 2nd), GRIER, M. (02:29 in 3rd), CHEECHOO, J. (05:42 in 3rd) |