The Flames will try to keep the momentum as the teams make a quick turnaround in Game 2 of their Western Conference quarterfinal series Thursday at San Jose.
Calgary hit quick and hit hard in wresting away home-ice advantage from the Sharks with Wednesday’s 3-2 victory - its fourth straight playoff win at San Jose. Stephane Yelle and Dion Phaneuf scored 2:30 apart as the Flames parlayed an aggressive forechecking game to a 2-0 lead in the first 5:17.
“When you can defuse that enthusiasm by scoring early, especially on the road, it definitely helps,” said Calgary coach Mike Keenan, who won his first playoff game since 1996.
Miikka Kiprusoff then carried the load for the Flames and finished with 37 saves, protecting a two-goal lead for most of the contest. He did allow a goal with less than a minute to play after the Sharks pulled Evgeni Nabokov for an extra attacker, but then withstood a late flurry by the Sharks to preserve the victory.
“We earned this game,” Flames forward Craig Conroy said. “We have a lot of players here who have done well in this building, guys who were here in the 2004 playoffs. We came in here, the building was alive, and we took the building out of it early. We know it will be harder tomorrow, but now they have more pressure on them.”
Calgary, which won all three games at San Jose en route to the 2004 Stanley Cup finals, also won two of three games in a 1995 first-round series and is 6-1 all-time there in the playoffs.
The emphasis on physical play against the Sharks has been a well-copied blueprint to defeating the Pacific Division champions, who have underachieved their last three postseason appearances. Aside from Ryane Clowe, who netted both goals, San Jose bared little resemblance to the team that used an 18-0-2 surge from Feb. 21-April 1 to win the division title.
Instead, the Sharks looked more like the passive team that was run out of the playoffs last year in the second round by the Detroit Red Wings and by the Edmonton Oilers in the conference semifinals in 2006 after losing to the Flames in six games in 2004. After totaling 108 points heading into what may be a make-or-break postseason for San Jose, the pressure to deliver has been ratcheted higher after losing home ice.
“I thought we came out with the right intentions, but maybe we were kind of tight, and they were really hungry,” Clowe said. “We definitely have to be more hungry, more of that dog-with-a-bone mentality. Overall, they wanted it more.”
Phaneuf, who will celebrate his 22nd birthday Thursday, was able to contain Sharks leading scorer Joe Thornton for most of the game. Thornton did have the space to set up Clowe’s second goal with 57 seconds left, but had only one shot on goal in more than 23 minutes of ice time.
“You want to win every game, so allow us five minutes to be disappointed, and just get ready for tomorrow, because we play right away,” said Thornton, who also hit the post on a breakaway early in the third period.”
The Sharks have not lost the first two games of a playoff series at home since the 2004 conference finals, which is also the last time the Flames won the first two games of a postseason series on the road.
The series shifts to Calgary for Game 3 on Sunday.