San Jose took to the Saddledome ice for the first time since the 2004 Western Conference Finals against the Calgary Flames, but could not top Calgary, losing 3-2 in a battle as tight as their last playoff series.
Sharks Head Coach Ron Wilson shook up his lineup by inserting rookie Grant Stevenson for his first NHL game and returning Christian Ehrhoff to the blueline. Stevenson had an interesting day of travel. He had to rent a car from Hershey, Penn. to catch a 6:00 a.m. flight from Philadelphia that would layover in Toronto and eventually land him in Calgary.
San Jose spent the opening five minutes on the attack, before Calgary gained their edges and put a couple of chances on Evgeni Nabokov. Both teams were skating strong in the early going.
At the period’s midway point, a hard forechecking Milan Michalek drew the games first penalty and Team Teal went on their first power play.
Using Patrick Marleau
at the point as they have for the past few contests, the Sharks controlled play for 1:15 to start the advantage, but several quality shots were stopped prior to reaching Miikka Kiprusoff. As the two minutes concluded, Cheechoo almost corralled a loose puck to the side of the net, but it wouldn’t lie down and the opportunity scooted away.
A failed attempt by Chris Simon to clear the puck caused a delay of game penalty and San Jose had their second power play. They did not solve Kiprusoff during the two minutes, but they did control the zone again and kept Calgary back on their heels.
The first period would end with goose eggs still up for both sides.
Both sides were finding shots, but the two clubs were doing a good job of keeping everything to the outside. Midway through the second, Nabokov was forced to make two big saves, but he made the plays look easy in denying the goals.
However, on Calgary’s next opportunity, they would take the lead. Carrying the puck on a three-on-two, Jarome Iginla fed Roman Hamrlik whose blast beat Nabokov top shelf.
Iginla would set up another chance, this one for Chuck Kobesew, but skating in alone on Nabokov, he lost his handle and never got off a shot.
San Jose had managed to not commit a penalty in 40 minutes against the team who has the most power plays on the season, but they were still trailing 1-0 heading into the final stanza.
That deficit would not last. In the first minute of the third, a pinching Tom Preissing drew a penalty, putting the Sharks on the power play. A Marleau rocket from the point left a juicy rebound and Stevenson knocked in the rebound for his first NHL goal in his first NHL game. The Alberta native scored the goal in front of 17 friends and family members to add to the moment.
San Jose had evened the contest and would look to find the go-ahead tally in the next 18 minutes of action.
Calgary would get their first power play of the game with 11:19 to go in regulation, but the San Jose penalty killers did their job. In fact, just as the two minutes expired, the puck was chipped up to Milan Michalek who was just leaving the box. He immediately began skating up ice and wound himself on a two-on-one with Mark Smith. The rookie Czech forward beautifully sent the pass to Smith who was robbed by Kiprusoff sliding over.
Then moments later Calgary would retake the lead. What seemed like a routine shot from the point by Robyn Regehr found its way under Nabokov’s glove and with just under nine minutes remaining, San Jose was trailing 2-1.
Calgary would add the important insurance goal with just more three minute remaining when Tony Amonte picked up a loose rebound and found the back of the net.
San Jose pulled Nabokov to try and close the gap, but when Preissing beat Kiprusoff for San Jose’s second goal, just seven seconds remained and Calgary would hold on for the 3-2 victory.
BLACK AND BLUE BROTHERS
Marleau and Primeau were both still sporting black eyes. Primeau sported two black eyes from a puck to the face in the Sharks last home game. Marleau got off easy with one black eye, but that came from friendly fire during the Edmonton contest.
Parker, Fahey, Ekman
San Jose will suit back up on Thanksgiving for a 7 p.m. contest in Vancouver. The game will be carried on FSN Bay Area, 98.5 KFOX and sjsharks.com.