Flames Devoured By Sharks

NHL's Hottest Club Keeps On Ticking

January 28th, 2004

For variety, we bring you the Calgary Flames.

With a 4-1 loss in San Jose last night, Calgary continued its bewildering pattern of following a win with a loss - or vice versa - that has characterized much of an admittedly difficult January schedule.

Calgary has played nine of 14 games on the road so far this month, criss-crossing the continent east/west and north/south so many times they may occasionally forget not only the time zone they're in but also what climate to dress for when they walk out of their hotel.

That may account for the fact the Flames seem to have fallen into the unnerving habit of following a spectacular win with an equally spectacular loss on a far-to-regular basis, their thorough domination of Phoenix the night before anchored by a fairly anemic performance against the surging Sharks.

The Flames haven't won consecutive games - or lost consecutive games - since beating the Rangers and Islanders in New York in early January as they've rung up a 6-7-1 record in what may be the toughest part of their schedule this year to date.

The loss leaves the Flames at 25-18-4-3 on the season, stuck at 57 points, one behind St. Louis for fifth spot in the NHL's tight Western Conference.

Flames are one point up on seventh place Nashville and two points up on eight place Dallas, Calgary having two games in hand on the latter. The ninth place LA Kings were still playing earlier in the evening.

San Jose came out firing on all cylinders, piling on the Flames through the opening 15 minutes with only the strong play of beleaguered Roman Turek holding the Sharks to a one goal edge, Mike Rathje' screened shot from the slot beating the Calgary starter at 6:49.

Flames tied the game at 3:09 of the second when Martin Gelinas lofted a shot that managed to deflect off Christian Ehrhoff in front of San Jose goaltender Evgeny Nabakov.

Marco Sturm sprang the surging Patrick Marleau loose for a breakaway marker that squirted through Turek's legs at 9:54 of the second, the eventual game winner.

Marleau then put the game out of reach at 17:09 of the third, Sturm stripping Flames defenceman Rhett Warrener of the puck and feeding Marleau for the final killing stroke.

Scott Thornton added a meaningless empty net marker in the final seconds.

Although the Sharks carried the bulk of the chances, Calgary was not without opportunity but San Jose was very effective in containing second chances and forcing the Flames into low percentage areas.

In short, one team was paying the price and the other wasn't, also a characteristic in most Flames losses this month.

"They got pucks in, they were jamming the net and scoring goals," analyzed a matter-of-fact Jordan Leopold on Fan960 after the game.

After surrendering only 12 shots to Phoenix the night before, tying a club record, Calgary allowed 35 to the Sharks, including an 11-1 advantage to San Jose to open the game, and it was all Turek could do to hold off the Bay Area hordes to keep this one close until late into the third period.

Calgary's only real surge came courtesy of the referees late in the first period when they received a series of power plays and managed to apply enough pressure to cause Nabakov to at least break a sweat, the Sharks netminder eventually ending the game with 18 saves.

San Jose has lost only three times in regulation in its last 19 home games.

Flames were zero for three on their powerplay opportunities while the Sharks failed to score on four man advantage chances.

For a team that desperately needs a win, there can be no greater gift than Chicago in the Saddledome on Friday night to start a lengthy five game Calgary homestand, the Hawks losers of 18 straight on the road.

Then again, that kind of streak becomes more statistically improbable the further it goes. Some unlucky team is bound - soon - to be the victim.

But . . . . if the Flames follow their pattern, it will be their turn to win yet again.





1 Patrick Marleau - Only 24, Marleau is beginning to take charge of the Sharks, scoring the winner on this night on a sharp breakaway goal then adding the backbreaker later in the third. 

2 Marco Sturm - A physical application of skill throughout the night and the setup man for both of Marleau's markers. 

3 Roman Turek - Without him holding the Sharks close, the Flames would have been long gone in the first 10 minutes of the first period.

In a one goal game with the Sharks piling up the shot totals, any of the 34 shots handled by Turek might have qualified but his flashing right leg save on Nicholas Dmitrakos at the five minute mark of the first, the San Jose forward thinking he had an easy open net goal, probably the best.

Oleg Saprykin is usually good to be on the receiving end of at least one big hit by the opposition and this game was no exception, the less than wily Calgary forward flattened by Kyle McLaren midway through the first period.

Rhett Warrener got chopped in the gums with an Alyn McAuley stick, leaving an ugly mess on the face of a guy who made the top 10 list of Calgary bachelors in 2003. He managed to return for the third period, although wearing a full cage. In his first shift of the period, he dove to break up a Marco Sturm drive at the Calgary net. . . . . Limiting Phoenix to 12 shots the night before tied a Flames record duplicated five times. . . . .Chuck Kobasew was a team worst minus three on the evening. Perhaps he was trying to deflect notice from that unfortunate stat by allowing himself to get beat up by Dmitrakos in the second period. . . . . Flames were schooled badly in the faceoff circle, a rarity this season, managing only a 40% percentage and led by Matthew Lombardi's 45%.Mike Ricci was 70% for the Sharks. . . . . With Warrener disappearing for the second period, Jordan Leopold picked up some slack, logging 24:39 in ice time to lead the Flames. Dean McAmmond, whom many thought wouldn't even start the contest after an unspecified leg injury the previous night in Phoenix, played 17:19. Kyle McLaren logged 24:01 in ice time for the Sharks. . . . . Calgary leads the season series with San Jose 2-1.

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