PLAYOFF SERIES: Western Conference finals; tied 2-2.
Having re-established home-ice advantage, the Sharks will try to move within one win of their first trip to the Stanley Cup finals when they take on the Flames in Game 5.
Looking all but beaten after dropping the first two games of this series at home, the Sharks overcame the determined Flames and their raucous crowd at the Saddledome by shutting out Calgary on Thursday and winning Game 4 on Sunday 4-2.
After a scoreless first period, the Sharks took complete control of this series by scoring all of their goals in the second.
Mike Rathje, who started the outburst with his first goal of the postseason just 2:40 into the period, said the Sharks are returning to HP Pavilion a confident bunch.
“We’re going to go home, get some rest and do exactly the same things we did here,” Rathje said. “We know how to win at home—really.”
Rathje, still sporting a nasty black eye from his fight with Chris Simon in Game 3, scored on a long slap shot and later added an assist. Rathje normally isn’t an offensive catalyst, but the defenseman’s injury seemed to provide just the motivation he needed.
“This is the playoffs, and that kind of (goonery), it doesn’t work,” Rathje said. “We’ve had adversity all year, and we’ve kept going. That’s not going to stop us.”
Goaltender Evgeni Nabokov allowed just two goals in Calgary after yielding eight in the first two games of San Jose’s first trip to the conference finals. He was nearly perfect in Game 4, allowing only a strange deflection goal and Simon’s score during a two-man advantage with 39.7 seconds left.
“We can say right now that we do have momentum, but we all know how that can change,” said Nabokov, who had 27 saves Sunday. “If you’re not prepared, if you’re not working hard for even two minutes, it’s gone.”
The Flames need to regroup quickly, especially goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff. Calgary’s playoff savior in the early rounds and in a 49-save performance in Game 1, stopped just 12 shots and allowed two terrible goals before giving way to Roman Turek in the third period.
But the Flames have been here before: Their previous two playoff series against Vancouver and Detroit also were tied heading into Game 5, and the young team handled the pressure splendidly.
“This one is behind us,” Jarome Iginla said. “It’s a best-of-three series now, and we’ve won both of our best-of-threes this season. We’ve always found a way to get out of this, and we’ll try to do it again.”
Calgary returned home four days ago with a two-game lead and an excellent shot at the franchise’s first trip to the Stanley Cup finals in 15 years. But the Sharks outplayed the Flames at both ends of the ice in Games 3 and 4, and Calgary’s continued struggles on the power play—1-for-16 in this series— have put added pressure on a squad which features just one true superstar in Iginla.
“The good news,” Calgary coach Darryl Sutter said, “is we get to play again right away.”
Game 6 is Wednesday night in Calgary.
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Flames - 6th seed; beat Vancouver Canucks 4-3, quarterfinals; beat Detroit Red Wings 4-2, semifinals. Sharks - 2nd seed; beat St. Louis Blues 4-1, quarterfinals; beat Colorado Avalanche 4-2, semifinals.
PLAYOFF TEAM LEADERS: Flames - Iginla, 8 goals and 15 points; Craig Conroy, 8 assists; Simon, 53 PIM. Sharks - Marleau, 8 goals; Niko Dimitrakos, 8 assists; Damphousse, 14 points; Jason Marshall, 23 PIM.
PLAYOFF SPECIAL TEAMS: Flames - Power play: 10.4 percent (8 for 77). Penalty killing: 82.5 percent (66 for 80). Sharks - Power play: 14.9 percent (11 for 74). Penalty killing: 92.3 percent (60 for 65).
GOALTENDERS: Flames - Kiprusoff (10-7, 3, 2.05); Turek (0-0, 0.00). Sharks - Nabokov (10-5, 3 SO, 1.61 GAA); Vesa Toskala (no appearances).