San Jose completed their eight-game road trip, falling to Calgary 7-4 in Alberta, and finishing the trip 4-4.
The contest featured the Sharks top NHL road record against the NHL’s top performing home club and former teammates Evgeni Nabokov and Miikka Kiprusoff squared off in the pipes.
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Jonathan Cheechoo’s hard play drew a penalty in the game’s first 30 seconds, putting San Jose up a man. Matt Carle sent Milan Michalek behind the defense on a mini-breakaway three-fourths the way into the power play, but Kiprusoff game up with a fabulous stop on Michalek’s backhand.
When Calgary took their turn up a man, they found themselves up a goal. The too-many-men penalty provided Dion Phaneuf an opportunity to drop down from his point and the NHL’s second-leading power play goal scoring defenseman beat Nabokov to the far post.
Calgary would make it 2-0 before the period reached its halfway point. Matthew Lombardi fired one from the right wing that Nabokov couldn’t handle, but Daymond Langkow beat every one on the ice to the loose puck and chipped it past the Sharks netminder.
Fisticuffs would break out when Calgary started coming too hard at Nabokov. Mark Bell and Wayne Primeau decided to dance and it was a one-sided affair. Bell moved from a right-handed boxer to a lefty in the middle of the bout and bloodied the former Shark.
A hard skating Joe Pavelski put San Jose on a second power play with just more than five minutes left in the first. The Sharks primary power play unit stayed on the ice and in the zone for more than 90 seconds, but could not beat Kiprusoff despite a couple of good chances.
With one minute left in the first, Joe Thornton found Cheechoo loose in the slot, but Kiprusoff slid to the far post and made the stop.
Calgary would suffer their own too-many-men on the ice penalty with 43 seconds remaining in the period and most of that would carry over into the middle stanza.
San Jose would not score on the carry-over power play, but on an ensuing power play opportunity, they pulled within one. A nifty between the legs pass by Mark Bell, combined with havoc being created by Cheechoo out front, allowed Matt Carle to lift in the Sharks first tally.
Then, barely a minute later, Team Teal struck again thanks to an outstanding effort from Mike Grier. The hard skating forward chipped a puck along the boards to himself to beat Roman Hamrlik. Grier then centered a pass to the streaking Joe Pavelski who tapped it past Kiprusoff.
The second part of the period saw a parade to the penalty box by both teams. A bit of four-on-four time saw excellent rushes by both squads, but Nabokov and Kiprusoff stopped each effort.
When Calgary took to a power play, Mike Grier struck shorthanded. He forced a breakaway for himself and used a backhander to get the puck across the line, giving the Sharks three unanswered goals and their first lead of the night.
Then less than 10 second later, the game was tied again. A Hamrlik slapshot was tipped out front and the redirected puck went upstairs too make things 3-3.
It was 3-3 with 1:30 left in the period and there were still two goals to come. First the Sharks used strong forechecking in the offensive zone to force a turnover that Kyle McLaren jumped on. The big blueliner laid into a shot that gave San Jose a 4-3 lead.
However, with 33 seconds left in the second, Lombardi used his speed to create a breakaway and he beat Nabokov to make it 4-4 at the intermission.
Just as the home club scored in the final minute of the second, they scored in the first minute of the third and it proved to be the game-winner. Tanguay turned a Craig Conroy clearing pass into a two-on-one rush with Jarome Iginla, and when Conroy centered the puck to the Flames captain, Iginla slapped it in for the 5-4 lead.
Midway through the third, the Sharks began completely dominating play in the offensive zone for almost three minutes, including a power play attempt, but they just fell short of the equalizer.
San Jose continued the pressure, but then luck turned in favor of the Flames. With just less than four minutes remaining, Langkow blasted a one-timer from out front that was tipped upstairs on Nabokov to make it 6-4.
Nabokov was pulled for the extra skater in the final 1:30, but it wouldn’t change the end result as Calgary closed out the 7-4 win.
Captain Patrick Marleau skated in his 700th career contest. Since 1997-98, only Niklas Lidstrom of Detroit has skated in more games for a single team.
Calgary’s playing roster was dotted with former Sharks Brad Stuart, Wayne Primeau, Jeff Friesen, Andrei Zyuzin and Miikka Kiprusoff.
The Sharks return to HP Pavilion Monday night for a nationally televised Versus contest against Anaheim. The 7 p.m. contest will also be available on 98.5 KFOX and sjsharks.com. Limited tickets are still available at the HP Pavilion Ticket Office and at www.ticketmaster.com.