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Sharks end scoreless streak but fall to Flames

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CALGARY, Alberta -- The Calgary Flames were victorious. Again.

The San Jose Sharks were snake-bitten. Again.

The Sharks finally ended their goal-scoring drought after 160 minutes, 36 second, but it wasn't nearly enough as the Flames registered a fourth straight win Thursday, a 4-1 triumph at the Scotiabank Saddledome.

Right winger Lee Stempniak, defenseman Mark Giordano, center Sean Monahan and right winger Jiri Hudler each scored for the Flames (20-27-7). Calgary center Mikael Backlund had two assists, and goalie Karri Ramo made 27 saves in a first-star performance.

"We beat quite a hockey club tonight," Flames coach Bob Hartley said. "From Karri Ramo to the six (defensemen) to the four lines, everyone is chipping in. I would say that, by far, it's probably our best team win of the season."

The Flames have rattled off four straight victories on home ice since losing a franchise-record seven straight at the Scotiabank Saddledome.

During that seven-game slide, they scored only four goals. During the four-game surge, they are averaging just over four per night.

"This is a pretty confident group," Hartley said. "Around Christmas, we couldn't buy a goal. Santa couldn't find a goal anywhere."

The Sharks (34-15-6) know how that feels.

Rookie right winger Eriah Hayes collected his first NHL goal in the third period, but that was the only tally for a squad that dropped its third game in a row, including two by shutout.

"I think we just need to get back to finishing," said center Joe Thornton, the Sharks' captain. "We haven't finished particularly well in the last three games, and it's definitely shown on the scoreboard. You've just got to concentrate in that last half-second to see where you're going to shoot, and put it in. Give them credit, they played well tonight."

Stempniak had the lone tally in the first period, although Backlund deserves the bulk of the credit. The Flames' first-line center made a crafty move around Sharks defenseman Matt Irwin, and although his attempt was stopped by goalie Alex Stalock, Stempniak capitalized on the rebound to give the home team the lead at 9:41.

Backlund added another assist at 3:38 of the middle frame, when his wrist shot deflected off the stick of Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic, missing the net but bouncing right to Giordano. Calgary's captain finished it off, and he now has points in eight consecutive games, the longest streak of his career.

Giordano played a key role in preserving the two-goal lead later in the period. Sharks center James Sheppard was stopped on a breakaway, but the puck trickled through Ramo's five hole, and Giordano was there to prevent Hayes from chipping it in.

"I just swatted it out," Giordano said. "But one of their players -- I don't know who it was -- got a second whack at it, and I don't know if it hit me or how it didn't go in. I was waiting for the celebration, to be honest, when I saw him shoot it. To see it go in the corner was a pretty big relief, for sure."

Hayes finally got one for the Sharks just 36 seconds into the third, with center Patrick Marleau setting him up after a turnover in Calgary's zone. It was San Jose's first tally since Thornton's overtime winner last Saturday against the Minnesota Wild.

But that was as close as the struggling Sharks would get.

Monahan batted Joe Colborne's pass out of mid-air and past Stalock with seven minutes to go, and Hudler scored an empty-netter at 18:14 to seal the victory.

Stalock saved 26 of the 29 shots he faced, but when a team scores just one goal in a three-game span, the goalie must be almost perfect.

"(Offense) is a big concern of ours right now," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "In our last eight games, we've only scored 13 goals, and 10 have them have come from three players. With injuries, and every team goes through them, you need others to pick up the slack, and we've got to find that.

"Obviously, Hayes getting his first tonight was a nice reward for him and a good thing for our team, but he didn't have much support around him."

The Flames will shoot for a fifth straight win in Saturday's home meeting with the Wild.

The Sharks head back to San Jose for a four-game homestand before the Olympic break, starting with Saturday's faceoff against the Chicago Blackhawks.

NOTES: Sharks RW Tyler Kennedy, who made an early exit during Wednesday's 3-0 loss to the Edmonton Oilers, missed Thursday's game because of a lower-body injury. ... Flames LW Michael Cammalleri was expected to return against the Sharks, but Calgary's coaches met with the veteran forward and decided that he would sit out a ninth straight game. Cammalleri hasn't had a setback in his recovery from a concussion but wants to ensure he is in tip-top shape before he is inserted into the lineup. When Cammalleri returns, Flames LW Curtis Glencross (high ankle sprain) will be the only player on Calgary's injured list. ... Sharks C Logan Couture, who has missed 12 games since having hand surgery, skated Thursday morning at the Scotiabank Saddledome. He could see game action before the Olympic break. ... The Flames reassigned C/LW Blair Jones to AHL Abbotsford. Jones appeared in 14 games for Calgary this season.
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