Flames "C" Red in Victory
Come From Behind Win Over Sharks
If the Flames are ever to do something in 2003-2004, everyone knows they'll need offensive help from players without last names of Iginla, Conroy and McAmmond.
Calgary got that in its home opener last light with Chuck Kobasew, Stephane Yelle and light-scoring Shean Donovan filling the net in a 3-2 Calgary win over the visiting San Jose Sharks.
In limiting San Jose to only 19 shots, Calgary asserted the smothering style of play coach Darryl Sutter has hoped will roll up the welcome matt of previous years and turn the Saddledome into a cache of points.
The Flames were torched in their own building for much of the first three months of last season, the most likely reason they finished out of the playoffs for a seventh consecutive season, the longest such current streak in the NHL.
The victory, in front of a sellout crowd of 17,039, left the Flames at 1-1 on the year.
"In the second and third period we got it together," Donovan told the FAN960 post-game show. "In the first period you could tell we were a little nervous with the home opener and everything.
"After they made it 2-1, we realized we were in a dogfight," added Donovan.
An interesting sub-plot to this game was Jamie McLennan coming in with a spotless relief performance, including a couple of critical clutch saves in the second period as Roman Turek was helped from the ice after being run over by Sharks Alyn McCauley.
McLennan might have had the worst training camp for a starting or back-up goaltender in Flames history but was sharp in this one, further muddling his fate as most observers had assumed GM Darryl Sutter had been frantically working the phones searching for a replacement.
Calgary backups have been a sore spot with several coaching staffs in recent years, with Mike Vernon and then McLennan winning only four games between them the last two seasons.
But McLennan stopped all nine shots directed his way in 37:17 minutes of action and with Turek facing a hospital visit after the game there will be a ton of speculation as to who might be opening in net for Calgary on Tuesday against Edmonton.
McLennan was particularly sharp in the early minutes of his tenure, stoning Marco Sturm and Mike Ricci on close in chances to keep his team within a goal.
From there Yelle scored on a multiple ricochet in front of Nabakov before the end of the second period and linemate Donovan took advantage of rare powerplay time to score a beauty in the third to give the Flames the victory.
Nils Ekman also scored for the Sharks.
Calgary was two for seven on the powerplay, including Kobasew's goal, which was set up by a nice charge from the corner doghouse occupant Oleg Saprykin.
The Kid Line of Kobasew, Saprykin and Lombardi was pressing throughout and provided a welcome relief from the continued absence from the scoresheet of the MCI line, McAmmond, Conroy and Iginla.
"They gave us a lot of jump, a lot of spark," assistant coach Rich Preston said of The Kid Line. "That Lombardi looks like a ten year veteran out there sometimes. That was a real excellent line for us and it needed to be."
Flames generated 20 shots in this game.
Next up is Edmonton at the Saddledome.
1 Stephane Yelle - Sutter's new Mike Ricci logs 15:17 in ice time, scores the tying goal and assists on the winner.
2 Shean Donovan - plugger noted for lead hands deftly lifts a deadeye missile over Nabakov for the victory.
3 Matthew Lombardi - Nice play to set up the opening goal of the game for his first NHL point. Mom and Dad are in the sellout crowd. Holy Crap, does it get any better than this?!! Steve Reinprecht who?
Alyn McCauley drove the net on a San Jose powerplay early in the second period, lifting the puck over a sprawling Roman Turek then putting his knee on the Calgary goaltender's head while bowling him over. The rough ride was the end of Turek for the night.
Jordan Leopold advanced to the top of the faceoff circle and powered a rocket at the San Jose goal but Evgeni Nabakov lifted his trapper with cat-like precision to snare a labeled drive late in the first period.
"The reason Oleg (Saprykin) didn't play (in Vancouver) was he didn't deserve to play," said a blunt Sutter, giving the most damning review yet of the young Russian's non-existent appearance in the recently wrapped Flames training camp. Sutter said the coaching staff had a long talk with Saprykin, sat him out for one game and then planned to play him to near exhaustion against San Jose. Tough love. . . . . . "I really like that line, they're really on the puck," said Bruins scout Tommy McVie, a living legend in his own right, on the Saprykin, Lombardi, Kobasew combination. "They're giving the San Jose team fits tonight." . . . . . Speaking of McVie, the After 40 Minutes HNIC Hot Stove Lounge had John Davidson revealing Bryan Berard is talking contract with a "Western Conference team." The Bruins have the right to match a contract offer 80% less than the $2.51 million arbitration award given to Berard this summer but rejected by the Bruins. With the Bruins controlling his fate, a trade becomes more likely. McVie's presence in any building could indicate which team is targeted. Maybe. . . . . . Leopold led the Flames with 22:50 in ice time and 28 shifts. Iginla was at 19:46. Scott Hannan led the Sharks with 24:35 in ice time. . . . . Yelle and Blair Betts were 65% and 64% in the faceoff circle to lead the Flames . . . . Vincent Damphousse was 60% for the Sharks.