They say game 4 is the most crucial game of a 7 game series, and that the winner of that game will more often than not dictate the eventual winner of the series. Well the Flames blew a late lead in that pivotal game 4, and San Jose walked out of the Saddledome with a split in Calgary and all sorts of confidence heading home to the HP Pavilion for game 5. The Flames have been an ornery bunch every since Tuesday night, with reports of an Iginla-Preston shouting match taking place yesterday, and quotes from Robyn Regehr today calling out his team-mates without naming names. But we all know who he is talking about (Huselius and Tanguay to start with). The fire seems to be there, the passion seems to be back after a brief hiatus, and the players and coaches seem ready for a rough and tumble affair in game 5.
On The Line
This game is massive. The teams have their horns locked at a 2-2 series tie, and have had to overcome similar obstacles recently. Both squads blew leads - San Jose was up 3-0 in game 3 and went on to lose 4-3, and Calgary was winning 2-1 in game 4 and went down to a 3-2 defeat. If Calgary wins tonight, you have to love their chances to close out the series at home in game 6. A San Jose win tonight? It's going to be an uphill climb to get the next win, as well as steal a game 7 in San Jose. They say game 4 is the most important? I say every subsequent game is the most important, you never know which game will seal the fate of the series and game 5 might just be that one. Then once this one is over, game 6 will immediately overtake the spotlight and become the most important game of the year.
Both teams came out to play for this one. The Flames started out with Jim Vandermeer at left wing opposite Ryan Clowe, a familiar move to those that watched the last 2 weeks of the season. Clowe has been the most dangerous Shark all series, and its about time they made life difficult for him as he's had his way with us leading the Sharks in goals and points. Calgary was all over him in the 1st..big key to the period I thought. This was a period of fast hard hitting and missed opportunities. First, Jarome Iginla streaked in on a 2-on-1 and took the shot low aiming for the five-hole. The puck hit the bottom of Nabokov's right pad and trickled through towards the line. Unfortunately Nabokov reached back before a Flame (what was Tanguay doing? Get to the net Alex!) could reach the rebound and cleared it of any danger. Then at the other end Jeremy Roenick deked out from beside the net and had Kiprusoff beat but the puck slid just out of his reach before he could tuck it in. Craig Conroy had a great chance later on, but lost his edge just before he could shoot the loose puck that found its way to the slot. A little later, Alex Tanguay hit the post on a breakaway. Flames could have had the lead after 1, but it was a pretty good road period and a good start to the game. San Jose registered 18 hits in the 1st period alone, and Calgary answering back with 16. Calgary ended the period with Vandermeer at left wing, all over Ryan Clowe just as the period had started.
The 2nd period was end-to-end insanity. There weren't many whistles in the opening 10 minutes as both teams traded chances back and forth. The best chances coming to San Jose as Milan Michalek and Joe Thornton were both denied on breakaways. The Flames finally broke the ice at 4:03 after penalties to Ryan Clowe and Torrey Mitchell gave the Flames a 5-on-3 advantage. They wasted no time as just 30 seconds into that Iginla fired a one-time blast from the point that beat Nabokov clean on his blocker side. The Sharks fought back and drew a couple Calgary penalties to earn a 5-on-3 of their own, and just as the first penalty came to an end Joe Pavelski banged a Craig Rivet rebound behind Kiprusoff at 11:32 to tie the game at 1 goal apiece. This coming right after Lombardi was stopped on a short-handed breakaway chance after using the same backhand deke he uses most times he gets a breakaway chance. The teams went back and forth again until just under 2 minutes left, when Joe Thornton found Patrick Marleau on a 3-on-2 rush and the Sharks captain wristed the puck just under the crossbar, beating Kiprusoff glove side for the 2-1 lead.
The Sharks found the scoresheet first in the 3rd period, as Jonathan Cheechoo pounced on a rebound after the puck hit the post and found Cheechoo's stick who deposited it into the net with Kiprusoff sprawled on the ice unable to get a piece of it. Cheechoo struck again just 3 and a half minutes later, finding himself the beneficiary of a magnificent pass by Patrick Marleau who feathered the rubber under Regehr's stick, and Cheechoo roofed it over Kiprusoff's glove. The Flames answered right back to that goal just a minute later when Daymond Langkow scored on the powerplay after a great Tanguay no look set-up. Then at 18:43 with the net Flames net empty, they made it interesting when David Moss banged home the puck after another no-look pass, this time from Iginla. But that was all the Flames could muster and the game ended in a 4-3 San Jose win.
1 - Patrick Marleau:
A goal and an assist in what was his best game of the series by far. 2 - Jonathan Cheechoo:
Scored 2 huge goals including the eventual game winner. 3 - Jarome Iginla:
1 goal and 1 assist and did everything he could to will the Flames through this one. His 26:23 of icetime led all forwards.
Evgeni Nabokov denied Iginla in the 1st period when Iginla shot the puck low on a partial breakaway. Nabokov caught a piece of it, but the puck was headed into the net after deflecting off his pad. He reached back and managed to clear it out of his crease with the paddle of his stick just before it crossed the line.
The first period was filled with hits, but nothing too huge to single out. The hit of the game is more of an example of Alex Tanguay looking lost, when he got in the way of the Phaneuf pain train when Dion was rushing the puck in over the blueline near the end of the game. Tanguay just side-stepped him at the last moment and only took a glancing blow, but it could have been a lot worse for both of them, mainly Tanguay.
Jim Vandermeer for coughing the puck up on the 3rd San Jose goal. Just a terrible, inexcusable play. Runner-up to Adrian Aucoin for trying to clear the puck out of the way when it was behind Kiprusoff, but the Flames netminder was about to lean back and cover it up and Aucoin kept the play alive which was immediately followed by the Cheechoo goal.
Patrick Marleau. Looking fully recovered from the Sarich annihilation he received in game 3, the Sharks captain played a whale of a game, and is the main reason the Sharks now lead the series 3 games to 2.
Odds and Ends
See what insurance goals will do? Kudos to the Sharks for keeping their foot on the gas and scoring 2 insurance markers in the 3rd after they took the 2-1 lead. It absolutely was the difference in the game as the Flames scored twice afterwards but couldn't muster a 3rd. Calgary outshot San Jose 36-26, and played a pretty sound road game overall. Great start to the game, but they just couldn't bury their early chances to take advantage of that great start. The Sharks woke up in the 2nd and played strong the rest of the game. Dion Phaneuf led both teams with 28:24 in icetime, and registered a game leading 9 hits. Add 2 assists to that to give him 6 points in 5 games, and you have by far Phaneuf's best playoff series of his 3 attempts. Marcus Nilson and David Hale were scratched in favour of David Moss and Anders Eriksson who both didn't seem out of place at all. Alex Tanguay is a boy amongst men out there, and it really showed tonight. He made a great pass on the Flames 2nd goal, but that was when the game was already out of reach. His play in the first 2 periods was embarrassing to watch. Even #20 showed up for this one, but Tanguay was nowhere to be found. The Flames are the first team to lose back to back games in this series...will they make it 3? Its a saying that's been over-used too much in Calgary for other games, but game 6 literally is a must-win game. Their season is on the line...
The Flames and Sharks come back to Calgary for game 6 in a must-win for Calgary. Its a 6:00 PM start and you can catch all the action on CBC or the Fan 960.