SAN JOSE Despite having collected five of a possible six points so far on a 5-game homestand, the San Jose Sharks found themselves tied for fourth place in the Pacific Division to start action Saturday. With Phoenix having already won in St. Louis, the Sharks could only hope to separate themselves from Dallas with a win over the Calgary Flames, on the back end of a back-to-back.
San Jose took care of business on their home ice, defeating the Flames 4-3 to climb into the 6th spot in the Western Conference. The loss was Calgary’s sixth in their last seven games.
“We won, and that’s the biggest positive we can take from this,” said Sharks coach Todd McLellan. “Our penalty kill had a lot of good blocks, but they were on the ice too much. We have to find a way to take the frustration out of our game, because we are playing well enough and hard enough, but still making too many mistakes.”
Calgary coach Brent Sutter, who kept the locker room closed for 10 mintues to dress down his players after the game, said, “We’ve lost six of our last seven and that urgency has to be there now, even in the middle of November.”
Olli Jokinen committed an interference penalty with 58 seconds gone in the game, and the Sharks took immediate advantage of the mistake.
For the second game in a row, San Jose scored on the first man-advantage shot they took, a top-shelf goal netted by Joe Thornton, his sixth of the season.
Ryane Clowe then netted his third of the season to give the Sharks a 2-0 lead when he patiently waited in the right circle until Kiprusoff moved, then went top shelf stick-side for the goal.
Clowe snapped a streak of eight straight games without a goal.
The Sharks went on a four-minute power play when Cory Sarich high-sticked Devin Setoguchi and drew blood at 13:59, but they were unable to score and ended the period leading by a pair of goals. San Jose out-shot Calgary 17-5 in the period.
Dan Boyle took a delay of game penalty six seconds into the second period, which gave Calgary 1:38 of 5-on-3, since Dany Heatley had been whistled for boarding int he final 17 seconds of the first period.
Mark Giordano slid a wrist shot under Antii Niemi’s right blocker at 51 seconds, cutting the lead in half. The Sharks successfully skated off Boyle’s penalty, holding on to the lead.
At 16:34, Craig Conroy was called for interference on Logan Couture, who would have had a clear shot at Kiprusoff as he stormed the net. Patrick Marleau made one too many passes and lost the puck early in the power play, then Jason Demers ripped a shot through the Calgary netminder, but it came to rest in the crease behind him, and the Flames defense cleared it.
The second period was contentious, with several near-fights breaking out, and one real one. Sarich caught Jamal Mayers with a clean but violent hit. Mayers dropped the gloves, landed four solid blows, and took Sarich to the ice, but earned an intstigator penalty and a misconduct for his troubles. The Sharks skated off the minor.
At 16:22 of the period, after a turnover by the Flames in the neutral zone gave the Sharks the puck, Joe Pavelski jammed home his own rebound on a backhand from the slot. Pavelski mis-hit the puck, trying to go high with it, but instead knocked it end-over-end under the Flames netminder, who reacted to the attempted high shot and left an opening under his pads. The goal was Pavelski’s fourth of the year, on his 67th shot, and it featured assist number 100 for Ryane Clowe.
The goal snapped an eight-game goalless streak for Pavelski, who is playing on the wing with Clowe and Couture on the second line.
“If you keep putting the shots on, you’re going to score some eventually,” said Pavelski. “We had a lot of scoring opportunities tonight, and fortunately we converted enough of them.”
Sharks’ special teams did well, skating off two penalties in the first seven minutes of the final period, the first on Couture for a high stick, and then on Torrey Mitchell for lifting a pass over the glass.
Calgary cut the lead to 3-2 when Jay Bouwmeester scored his second of the season as he took a pass from Matt Stajan and skated across the slot, burying a wrister five-hole on Niemi at 9:14 of the third period. At that point, San Jose had not registered a shot in the period.
At 14:10 of the third, the Sharks put the game away when Pavelski took the puck away in the neutral zone, and Clowe and Couture ran a perfect 2-on-1 break, with Couture doing the honors from the right circle. The goal, along with a pair of helpers, gave Couture the first three-point game of his career.
“Right now,” said McLellan, “he’s the best player on the best line on our team. We are very fortunate to have him on our team.”
The Flames pulled Kiprusoff for an extra skater with about a minute left, and Jarome Iginla slapped home a top-shelf shot at 19:23 from the right circle for the final goal.
Kiprusoff (6-8-0) stopped 31 of the 35 shots by San Hose, while Niemi, who had lost his last four starts, saved 28-of-31 shots by the Flames to raise his record to 2-4-0.