Sharks Square Series 

Momentum With Fish As Series Heads to San Jose 

May 16th, 2004

That Ron Wilson. What a card.

Wearing a red tie only days after labeling the rabid "C of Red" in Calgary as nothing special, the San Jose coach might have been waving the proverbial crimson cloak once too many times in the face of the charging bull.

But it was the Calgary Flames who fell on their swords on Sunday afternoon at the Saddledome, continuing their flat, flat, flat play on home ice in these playoffs, pounded 4-2, the loss allowing San Jose to climb back from the abyss and tie their Western Conference Final series at two games apiece.

Calgary might have the loudest crowd in the NHL these days but their hometown heroes aren't backing them up, Flames scoring only twice in these last two important games and Calgary now winners of only three of eight home dates in their remarkable playoff run.

Worse, it was a loss that might have given Calgary a stranglehold on this series, the Sharks now allowed to escape their own wallowing start and regain home ice advantage after dropping the opening two games at the Shark Tank.

Perhaps that's the good news, as poor as the Flames have been in Calgary they've been an unchallenged 7-2 in enemy rinks, a flip-flop success every bit as quirky as their appearance in the Final Four.

Should Calgary eventually lose this series, however, there will be little doubt of where the decisive moments came, on home ice and betrayed by a mediocre power play that's finally catching up to them.

Flames were zero for seven with the extra man in the meat of this game before a meaningless power play goal in the last minute of play, now two for 20 in this series, a record of futility that is beginning to cost them games.

"I thought tonight special teams were the difference," admitted Vincent Damphousse.

San Jose limited the Flames to only 13 shots through the first two periods which pretty much told the story of this game. By the time Calgary drilled Nabokov for 16 shots in the third period, the game was long over.

"Now we're playing as a team," added Damphousse. "We're allowing less shots and playing within our abilities."

The Sharks looked dead and beaten in Game 2 in San Jose but have had a renaissance since then which could be interpreted as an improvement in their own play or an easing off by Calgary. Or both.

"Obviously we have to win a home game there (San Jose)", said Wilson after the game. "I'll betcha a lot of people in San Jose didn't think we were coming back."

Ah yes, another drawback to a loss for Calgary, the return of the cocky, confident Wilson.

After a first period of little flow and even fewer chances, the Sharks blew the game open with two power play goals and four in total, putting the contest out of reach for all intents and purposes.

It was the first time this playoff year that Miikka Kiprusoff had lost two consecutive games, the Flames uber-goalie 5-0 with a goals against average of only 1.00 in similar situations, and the first time he's been pulled, leaving after two periods and replaced by the all but forgotten Roman Turek.

"I thought it was his weakest game of the playoffs," said Sutter of Kiprusoff. "It reminded me of game 2 (Evgeni Nabokov). Just the opposite."

San Jose opened scoring at 2:40 of the second period, a scramble in the Flames zone allowing Mike Rathje to drill a screened point shot from the top of the slot that Kiprusoff plainly didn't see through his own red-shirted defenders.

The Flames held some brief life when Jarome Iginla rambled behind the net and tossed the puck into a crowd out front where it deflected off some part of a Sharks defender and behind Evgeni Nabakov at 7:55.

The Sharks came back almost immediately, however, to restore their lead, Robyn Regehr allowing Johnathon Cheechoo to scream between himself and the post and retrieve a loose puck formerly held by Kiprusoff, the splendid Sharks forward sneaking a wrap-around into the open net in the blink of an eye only 39 seconds after the Gelinas marker.

"I thought that was the turning point," said Damphousse.

From there, it was lights out for the Flames, lead feet overtaking their brains for a series of penalty calls that gave the Sharks two power play goals from Vincent Damphousse and Patrick Marleau.

A madcap crowd that had rallied their heroes from a 4-0 deficit in Game 6 against Vancouver helped the Flames somewhat in the third, Calgary getting some jump for for 16 shots but few of the sensational variety.

Chris Simon added a too-little, too-late power play goal in the final minute of the third period.

"Clearly the momentum is on our side now," chortled Wilson.

True. But you didn't want to hear that from Wilson especially.

Right back at it tomorrow night in San Jose.





1)Vincent Damphousse - Aging gracefully, the wily veteran provided the leadership his team needed in a critical game. 

2)Patrick Marleau - The silky smooth centre comes up big with a goal and an assist. 

3)Mike Rathje - a rare two point game to compliment his octopus-like play in the defensive end of the ice. A nice comeback from being rope a doped by Chris Simon at the tail-end of Game 3.

Oddly, there weren't a lot of thrilling chances in this game and even fewer remarkable saves. Anything decent seemed to end up in the net which is testimony to the defensive prowess of the Sharks at one end and the unflattering score for the Flames at the other. Still, Craig Conroy roamed into the middle of the ice and then drifted a shot through the legs of a San Jose defender to a waiting Iginla, the latter deflecting the puck but Nabakov deftly, if not effortlessly, padding the puck to the corner early in the third period.

Vincent Damphousse was retrieving the puck in his own end when he was sandwiched hard on the boards by Jarome Iginla and Martin Gelinas midway through the first period.

It was the first action for Turek since April 4 and he was flawless. Then again, so were the Flames in front of him. . . . . . Calgary generated 29 shots in total while the Sharks had 19. . . . . "He's frustrated as all heck," said Wilson of Iginla after the game. "He's not getting much room out there." . . . . Scott Hannan led the Sharks with 25:45 in ice time while Jarome Iginla led the Flames with 25:07, a rare night when a forward leads a team in this category. . . . . Calgary was 55% in the faceoff circle, led by 60% for Stephane Yelle. Marcel Goc was 75% for the Sharks. . . . . . Chris Simon had five shots for the Flames, Marleau three for San Jose. . . . . . "Turnovers cost us the hockey game," said Sutter after the game.

Gelinas Conroy Iginla 
Nieminen Nilson Donovan 
Simon Yelle Clark 
Lowry Kobasew Saprykin

Regehr Montador 
Ference Commodore 
Warrener Leopold

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