A truly bizarre game through and through where the momentum switched back and forth like a California tide. In yet another must win game for the Flames, the luck needed, that was obviously missing in Anaheim two nights ago, was waiting for Calgary in San Jose. It was a familiar tale where yet again the Flames ventured to an unfriendly arena in California, having lost the last five at the HP Pavilion, only this time Calgary managed to write a different ending, capping off what ended up being a pretty big night for a number of reasons.
While Olli Jokinen carried the mail up front, Miikka Kiprusoff held down the fort on the back end. As for the rest of the team, it was an all around solid team effort. Everytime the Sharks looked to run the Flames down and take over the game, Calgary managed to stem the tide and generate a push-back of their own.
Once again the Flames came out flying to start the game, coming at the Sharks with everything they had, and it seemed to be effective. Pushing San Jose out of their zone and transitioning well into offense. When it didn’t pay immediate results, you saw the Sharks starting to turn the play around in their own favour. Despite the Flames out-chancing San Jose 7-5 in the first period, it seemed to only be a matter of time before the Sharks smelled blood and went in for the kill. However it was Olli Jokinen at the 12:30 mark, scoring first for the Flames on a strange goal. The Chris Butler shot from the point went off the blade of Jokinen’s stick as he was turning away from the shot. it may have been a lucky one, but it halted the onslaught that was building from San Jose.
Calgary started the second period with the same work ethic of the first and wasting no time. At 2:36 of the period, Olli Jokinen snapped home his 15th of the season and second of the night on a nice series from Alex Tanguay and Mike Cammalleri. Olli could have notched the natural hat trick not long after that, but bounced his shot off the outside of the post. That post almost proved to be disastrous.
At 6:29, Logan Couture put a wrist shot past Kipprusoff on a delayed penalty to draw the Sharks within one. That was the blood in the water the Sharks needed. Just a minute and twenty-three seconds later Joe Pavelski scored his 20th of the season to tie the game at two. Immediately Brent Sutter called a timeout and needed to settle down his troops if they were going to have a chance. The Sharks out-chance the Flames 9-8 in the second, which wasn’t too bad, considering the play was mostly in the Flames end.
However, the timeout seemed to have worked and at 11:15 of the 2nd, the Flames Captain once again wristed home a vital goal for his team. The goal was Iginla’s 21st of the season, and to no surprise, it was Olli Jokinen with the assist and his third point of the game.
As is the case far to often, the Flames opened the third in shell mode, trying to protect the lead, and the Sharks made them pay early. At just the :49 second mark, Michal Handzus tied the game with a wrist shot that some found questionable, in that it appeared Kiprusoff was interfered with. The goal stood and the game was tied again. It didn’t take long though for Calgary to once again turn the tide. At 3:25, Olli Jokinen completed the hat trick and his fourth point of the night. From then on the Flames did their best to just hold off the Sharks, being grossly out-chanced 8-3, and relied once again on the play of Miikka Kiprusoff and specifically one "scorpion-like" kick save, to preserve the win.
ONE GOOD REASON…
… why the Flames won? Because the team didn’t panic when the Sharks pressed them, and they got top-end play from both the defensive and offensive side of the puck. Kiprusoff did what he always does to give the Flames a chance; Jokinen, with the help of Tanguay (who has been phenomenal since returning to the line-up) and Jarome Iginla, made the most of those chances, which had to bring a smile to the face of his countryman.
Although I had always intended to go with Olli for pretty much the entirety of the game, there is no looking past what Miikka did tonight. His 300th win of his career, 286 of those coming in a Flames uniform. He is only the 27th goalie to join the 300 win club, and there is no doubt that he has been the back-bone of this team this season. That being said, I can’t discount the play of Jokinen and the performance he put on tonight leads me to believe that McDonald’s will soon have him on speed dial.
SUM IT UP
Tonight was everything the Flames could have asked for. They took on an elite team, in an arena that they have struggled in. They were coming off a disappointing loss and had to find a way to rise to the challenge. They did that and more in San Jose; not only playing a solid game in both ends of the rink, but also being able to hold off the Sharks when they pressed. The victory will have to be put out of mind quickly as the team travels to yet another arena they have struggled in. How much is left in the tank for Phoenix tomorrow night? We’ll find out tomorrow.