Wednesday night in Calgary, San Jose played one of their craziest games of the season, but the final result was a 5-4 loss to the Flames. Team Teal led 1-0 after one period, followed that by surrendering four unanswered tallies and then nearly pulled off the miraculous comeback, only to come up one goal short.
Evgeni Nabokov and Miikka Kiprusoff guarded the pipes on the night, with each starting his 50th game of the season.
The evening’s first scoring chance came when Joe Thornton
flipped a smooth backhand pass up ice to Milan Michalek and sent the left wing in on a breakaway. Michalek skated in with speed, but Kirpusoff snagged the shot with the glove hand. Michalek had another high percentage chance minutes later when he took a Sandis Ozolinsh pass on top of the crease, but he had little room to maneuver and the puck was pushed aside.
Nabokov was tested eight minutes into the game when a turnover gave Calgary’s Kristian Huselius the puck in the high slot. San Jose’s netminder came out to challenge the shot and made the big save. Nabokov could not rest on his laurels for even a moment when Alex Tanguay got a step a on the defense a minute later. Once again, Nabokov did his job the game remained scoreless 10 minutes in.
It would not stay that way long as Sharks Captain Patrick Marleau
posted the game’s first tally. At the 10:39 mark, Marleau took an initial shot that bounced back to him. While on the move, he kicked the vulcanized rubber to his stick and ripped a shot that clanged off the far post and in.
Marleau’s ninth tally of the season would give San Jose a 1-0 lead at the first intermission.
Nabokov continued his stellar play early in the second when Patrick Rissmiller was sent to the penalty box and San Jose was forced to play shorthanded. Nabokov’s biggest stop during the two minutes was a sliding pad stack on Owen Nolan and the 1-0 lead remained in tact five minutes into the second.
When San Jose was able to breakup a two-on-one rush, the puck stayed in Calgary’s offensive zone and they tied the contest. After an initial shot, the puck returned to Nolan in the slot and he was positioned with his back to the net. When most presumed he would spin to the forehand side, the former Shark spun the other way and his backhander found a hole inside the post.
Twenty-two seconds later, Calgary had gone from trailing to leading the contest. This time a strong forecheck provided the Flames possession deep in the Sharks zone. Dustin Boyd took possession and slid a pass to Wayne Primeau in the slot. Nabokov got a piece of the wrister, but not enough and another former Shark had scored for Calgary, providing them their first lead of the night.
San Jose had chance to pull back even minutes later, but a Joe Thornton
breakaway was stopped by Kiprusoff.
A late second period penalty by Rissmiller gave Calgary their third man-advantage of the game and the Flames would capitalize. Holding the puck at the point, Dion Phaneuf blasted a one-timer that Nabokov could not see through traffic, giving the Flames three unanswered goals.
San Jose had a brief five-on-three power play to close out the period, but could not find the back of the net and trailed 3-1 after 40 minutes.
With Team Teal still on the power play beginning the third, Nabokov made a mental error and the Flames increased the lead to 4-1. Coming out beyond the edge of the faceoff circle to play the puck, Nabokov’s clearing attempt went directly to Nolan and he threw it in the open net.
San Jose would not quit and just 2:44 into the third, they had pulled within two again courtesy of Tomas Plihal’s first NHL goal. The Czech winger pushed a backhander on Kiprusoff that fell to the ice. The former Shark goaltender could not locate the puck and accidentally knocked it back toward the crease and eventually across the goal line.
What may have been the straw the broke the camel’s back came at 10:45 of the third period when Nolan completed his hat trick. Nolan finished a play by corralling a rebound and knocking it in while diving in the air, providing the Flames a 5-2 lead.
With exactly two minutes left in the third, Rissmiller placed a wrister just inside the near post to pull the Sharks within two goals and a glimmer of hope remained when Cory Sarich was sent to the sin bin for slashing. Nabokov was pulled for the six-on-four advantage and with 1:01 left, Jonathan Cheechoo batted a rebound out of mid air and pulled San Jose within 5-4.
Only 7.6 seconds remained when San Jose had a faceoff in the offensive zone with Nabokov pulled for the extra attacker, but they could not complete the comeback Calgary survived with a 5-4 victory.
San Jose will return to HP Pavilion Saturday for a 2 p.m. battle against Chicago. Limited tickets are available at www.ticketmaster.com and the HP Pavilion Ticket Office and the contest will be aired on FSN Bay Area, 98.5 KFOX and sjsharks.com.