AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Larry MacDougal
By Mary Walsh
The Sharks started a two game road trip with a 3-2 win against the Calgary Flames. Going into Saturday’s game, the Flames had won four in a row, Sharks had won three. The Flames were 11-1-2 when scoring first, as they did Saturday. To up the ante, the Flames had a third period scoring differential of 24, while the Sharks had a lamentable minus 4. If the Sharks thrive on a challenge, entering the third period tied with the Flames was a fine one.
It was not a pristine performance from the Sharks, but head coach Todd McLellan summed it up well after the game:
We… found a way to beat a hot goaltender, found a way to get ourselves back into the game. Our first period was not anywhere near what we needed it to be, but we chatted a little bit between periods and we responded well.
Sharks goaltender Antti Niemi stopped 33 shots for the win. Patrick Marleau scored the game winner, while Tommy Wingels, Logan Couture and Justin Braun all had two point games.
The Flames dominated play for the first five minutes, peppering Niemi with shots while the Sharks had trouble getting through the neutral zone. The Sharks started to show some cohesion around the ten minute mark, with some sustained zone time and a few shots. Overall, the Flames dominated play in the first, keeping the Sharks’ recorded shot count to just three in the first fifteen minutes of the period.
Kennedy left the game during the first period with an undisclosed injury and did not return for the second.
The Flames scored the first goal in the last three minutes of the period. David Jones passed the puck to Mark Giordano who was just coming across the blue line with some speed. His slapshot came so fast that Niemi never saw it coming. It was Giordano’s seventh goal of the season. Assists went to David Jones and Curtis Glencross.
In the final minute, Logan Couture took a shot that went off the post, and the Sharks picked up their game in the final few shifts of the period. By the end of the period, the Flames led the Sharks in shots 12-8, and the score stood at 1-0 Flames.
The Sharks started the second period by losing the faceoff, but they chased the puck down and pushed the Flames into the offensive zone. Justin Braun came up with the puck off some good forechecking from Tommy Wingels. With a backhand shot that looked like an afterthought, Braun beat Karri Ramo to tie the game. The assist went to Wingels.
That backhand worked so well that Logan Couture decided to try one after some nifty stick handling around a Flames defender. He got control of the puck after John Scott wrested it from the Flames’ Raphael Diaz. Couture’s shot went off the far post and in, abruptly giving the Sharks the lead. Assists went to to John Scott and Justin Braun.
The Sharks took the first penalty of the game midway through the second period, an interference penalty to Brent Burns. Not only was the Calgary power play seventh in the league, but it was also on a four game scoring streak. The Sharks killed that off without allowing a shot to get through to the net.
The next penalty went to the Flames, with just under five minutes left in the period. The Sharks held the zone well but only got one shot to the net during the power play.
Back at even strength, the Flames tied the game after the Sharks lost track of Johnny Gaudreau, who set himself up in front of the net. Jiri Hudler passed the puck to him and he had plenty of time to push it past Niemi. Assists went to Hudler and Matt Stajan.
At the end of the second, the Flames led in shots 21-16. For the period, the shots were 9-8 Flames.
The Sharks’ Brendan Dillon was called for interference just 3:26 into the third period, putting the Sharkson the penalty kill. Johnny Gaudreau had a quick chance that had Niemi scrambling to stop it but the Sharks penalty killers did come to the rescue. Another close call came with 35 seconds left in the penalty, with the puck bouncing like a lotto ball, but the Sharks killed the penalty off. The Flames managed three shots on that power play.
Midway through the period, the Marleau-Couture-Wingels line had a spectacularly relentless shift, moving the puck through and around the Flames zone. Scott Hannan and Matt Irwin held the blue line, while pass after pass kept the Flames chasing the puck around. Finally, a few quick moves behind the goal line between Wingels and Couture ended with a shot from Patrick Marleau to give the Sharks the lead again. Assists went to Couture and Wingels.
The Flames responded ferociously, hemming the Sharks into their zone for a very long shift. An icing gave the Sharks a chance to regroup, and the Sharks escaped for line changes after Goodrow blocked a shot out of the zone.
Driving the net at 14:55, Tomas Hertl drew a holding penalty against TJ Brodie. 31 seconds into the power play, Matt Stajan was called for hooking, giving the Sharks a two man advantage for nearly 90 seconds. The first minute of that 5 on 3 produced just two shots but looking promising. Ramo stopped the shots, holding the second.
The Flames won the next faceoff and the Sharks’ power play fell apart after that, with the Flames clearing the puck twice and getting a short-handed breakaway. Niemi stopped the shot but the Flames came alive, running roughshod through the Sharks zone. The Flames drew a penalty and played with an empty net for more than 30 seconds before their power play even started.
With Braun in the box for tripping, the Flames pulled Ramo for a sixth skater. Burns, Couture, Vlasic, Thornton, Pavelski and Hannan all pitched in for the closing penalty kill. The Sharks only got the puck out twice, but it was enough to hold on for the win.
The final shot count was 35-30 for the Flames.
Joe Pavelski led the team in shots with six, Marc-Edouard Vlasic led the team in shots blocked with four. Vlasic also led the Sharks’ skaters in ice time with 24:32.
Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan led the Flames in shots with five each. Curtis Glencross and Ladislav Smid each blocked three shots. Karri Ramo stopped 27 of 30 shots for Calgary. Dennis Wideman led all skaters in ice time with 28:44.
Matt Nieto was out with an injury, while Tye McGinn and Mirco Mueller sat as healthy scratches.
The Sharks next play on Sunday at 6:00 PST in Edmonton against the Oilers.