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NHL

Sharks even series with road victory

SHARKS 4, FLAMES 2: A big second helps the visiting team of the West final win for the fourth time in four games.

By BRANT JAMES
Published May 17, 2004

CALGARY - The nonstop chant of "Go Flames Go" heard at the Saddledome has taken on a new meaning for the Flames. Go, as in get out of here, this 3-5 home record is ruining a perfectly good postseason.

If the running thread of the tied West final continues tonight in San Jose, the Flames are right where they want to be. A home team has yet to win in the series, and the Sharks have home-ice advantage.

But after a 4-2 Sharks win Sunday in Game 4, a second straight dominating defensive performance and a goal and assist from Patrick Marleau, Vincent Damphousse and Mike Rathje, San Jose looks very much in control.

"If somebody told us we'd be 2-2 in the conference finals, I'm sure we would say we'd take that," Flames coach Darryl Sutter said. "But we had a couple of guys play not very well for us tonight."

Calgary swept the first two games of the series in San Jose but were flummoxed at home, scoring just two goals and losing consecutive games for the first time this postseason.

"I've told the guys," Damphousse said, "coming back from 0-2 is difficult, but it's doable."

Especially because San Jose's depth of skill players appears to finally be overcoming the Flames' gritty lunch pail ethic while a Sharks defense led by Rathje and Scott Hannan is frustrating Calgary sniper Jarome Iginla.

"I think they got a little frustrated," Hannan said. "We work the play pretty hard. We come at you. We're physical, and they're physical, too. And I think they got a little frustrated."

San Jose took control with a four-goal second period, in part with standout play from its gifted forwards, in part because of Calgary mistakes.

Rathje, who was battered by Chris Simon in a fight late in Game 3, made it 1-0 at 2:40 when he skated onto a long rebound and plastered a shot from the slot past Miikka Kiprusoff.

Calgary tied it at 7:55 when Iginla bounced a shot off Evgeni Nabokov's pads as he breezed by the net. But San Jose responded just 39 seconds later on an apparent miscommunication between Kiprusoff and defenseman Robyn Regehr with a dumped puck resting behind the Flames net.

Jonathan Cheechoo hustled between the two Flames to collect the puck and wrapped a shot into the net as both scrambled to fill the crease.

After failing on three power plays in the first, the agitated Flames had five penalties in the second, giving San Jose four power plays. The Sharks scored on two for a 4-1 lead. San Jose has outscored opponents 19-4 in the second this postseason.

"Killing off those power plays was huge," Damphousse said. "In the first period, we weather the storm. We knew they would come out hard, and when we got our chance in the second period, it was the difference."

Damphousse, who had the winner in Game 3, scored his seventh of the playoffs and upped the lead to 3-1 at 10:03 with a shot just outside the crease. Marleau dived with defenders on his back to flick the puck in front.

"That's why I stayed in position," Damphousse said. "He made a great play, great second effort."

Marleau outworked defenseman Steve Montador to tip a Damphousse pass through Kiprusoff's legs at 18:47. Kiprusoff, who played his "worst game of the postseason," according to Sutter, was removed for backup Roman Turek to start the third. With two home losses fresh in their minds, the Sharks seem reluctant to judge themselves in control or consider how much they've frustrated the Flames.

"We'll play our game," center Mike Ricci said. "We're not going to get concerned with what they're doing or if they're frustrated."

[Last modified May 16, 2004, 23:36:12]


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