Michal Handzus and Brent Burns scored twice in the shootout while Antti Niemi made two critical saves as the San Jose Sharks edged out the ever stingy Calgary Flames 2-1 Tuesday Night at the Shark Tank. The Sharks had thought for a moment that they had actually won the game in the overtime period when Justin Braun scored what should have been the game winning goal. The officials on the ice however waived off this goal, claiming that Tommy Wingles had interfered with Flames goalie Mikka Kipprusoff. The replay had showed that Wingles was pushed towards Kipprusoff by Olli Jokinen, however because by rule the call is not reviewable the Sharks were forced to go to a shootout period to win this contest.
The game itself was a rough one for team teal. The Sharks had struggles maintaining a forecheck for any extended period of time while Calgary carried a large segment of the play for the first two periods. In the first period itself, the Sharks only managed four shots on goal (though defensively they also held the Flames to six shots on goal). At times it seemed as if the Sharks were skating as if they had led weights slowing them down. Despite their struggles early, the Sharks in the end found a way to get it done, even with a horribly blown call by the officiating crew. Also ailing the Sharks was the absence of Ryane Clowe who sat out this game with an upper body injury.
Here’s a look at what happened:
Slow, Frustrating Start - The first period was more or less an exercise in futility for the Sharks, though there were certainly opportunities that were there for them. In the first period, Jason Demers actually hit the posts with shots twice (those don’t count as shots on goal), and hit another post in the second period as well. Joe Pavelski had a golden opportunity on a Sharks power play with Kipprusoff down in front of the goal. Pavelski however got just a little too much lift on the puck and it hit the crossbar and bounced over it. Meanwhile the Flames just seemed to be everywhere the puck was and this served to frustrate the Sharks even more. Some of the credit ofcourse has to go to Kipprusoff as he made the saves he needed and as usual was at times hard to solve. Meanwhile Niemi was strong in net himself and denied the Flames on several scoring chances which they had throughout the evening.
The Defense Doesn’t Rest - The Sharks also had a strong showing defensively which was sorely needed. This was huge considering they had trouble with the Calgary forecheck for a good part of the game. One thing that really helped team teal here was that they drew no penalties which is absolutely to their credit. In fact, the Flames drew the only two penalties in the game, but the Sharks power play could not convert on either man advantage opportunity. The same could also be said for Calgary as their defense did a phenomenal job keeping the Sharks frustrated for most of the evening.
Fire Down Below – The scoreless tie held up until the Flames would break the seal when Jarome Iginla was trying to feed a pass to Mike Cammalleri. The pass would go through Cammalleri and bounce off of the left boards, where it would ultimately land on Chris Butler’s stick. Butler wasted no time and drilled a slap shot the beat Niemi top shelf to put the Flames in front with just under eight minutes remaining in the second period. Kipprusoff meanwhile held up the fort for Calgary making 10 saves in the period to equal Niemi in this department. As the period ended, the Sharks knew that they had some work to do with solving the Flames forecheck and trying to create for themselves more quality scoring chances.
Turning Up the Heat – The final period saw the Sharks come out with a little more energy and even some attitude which they needed. Several times more though it seemed the Flames defense was more than ready for the challenge. Calgary stuck with their stragtegy, and as they did in the first two periods continued to clog up shooting lanes and effectively hold team teal at bay. Niemi meanwhile was prepared for everything the Flames would throw at him and was just as effective as his counterpart.
Over the halfway mark of the final period, the Sharks finally got the break they had been waiting all night for after Kipprusoff was not able to collect a rebound of a M Handzus shot. Torrey Mitchel came in from behind the net to collect the loose puck and back hand it over Kipprusoff’s leg pad into the back of the net. The Sharks finally were on the board and tied with the Flames and brought the sell out crowd to it’s feet. Mitchell had taken a feed pass from Brent Burns, then immediately fed Handzus in front of the net. After Kipprusoff had made the initial save, Mitchell had the presence of mind to seize the loose puck before it could be cleared. Mitchell then got his stick on it and managed to get it past Kipprusoff before he could reset himself. From this point, the pitchers duel between the two goalies resumed as the game would head into overtime.
Three Blind Mice - The overtime period would be marred by one of the bigger controversial calls that the Sharks will see this season. Both teams had three scoring chances, with the Sharks and Niemi successfully holding the Flames off of the board. Meanwhile, with 1:10 left in the OT, the Flames made what appeared to be a huge turnover in the neutral zone that the Sharks jumped on. Jokinen skated up ice with the puck and tried to pass the puck over to Mark Giordano. The pass to Giordano was intercepted by Joe Thornton and the Sharks had an odd man breakaway with both Tommy Wingles and J Braun. As Wingles skated towards the net, Thornton passed the puck over to Braun who drilled a slap shot that beat Kipprusoff and appeared to give the Sharks the win.
Not so fast.
The officials on the ice immediately waived off the goal, claiming that Wingles had interfered with Kipprusoff. The replay however showed that this call was totally missed by the officials as it was clear that not only did Wingles NOT interfere with Kipprusoff, it was Jokinen who actually ran into him while trying to push Wingles out of the way. However, by rule these calls once made are non-reviewable and the Sharks had to play on despite the officials quick whistle and absolute lack of good judgement. The overtime would wind down with the teams still tied 1-1.
In the shootout, the Sharks took care of business. After a failed first try by Patrick Marleau, Handzus and Burns both beat Kipprusoff. Meanwhile Niemi stopped the Flames’ Iginla and Cammalleri in their scoring attempts. The Sharks had the hard fought win in which they had to earn not once, but twice. The big problem with the officials gaff stems from two things, 1) The call being obviously wrong to the naked eye, and 2) Shootout wins do not count in playoff position tie breakers, so the ramifications from this if any won’t be known until seasons end.
Game Assessment- The Sharks despite being out-skated in several portions of the contest, being down a key player and having to overcome a bad officiating error still found a way to win even though they had to do so in the shootout. With home ice at a premium the rest of the regular season (just 15 more games), the Sharks must make the most of the games at The Tank. The game certainly will never be mistaken for it’s art value, but this was in many ways one of those “ugly wins”. Even an ugly win still counts for two points in the standings which is never a bad thing. Niemi was the first star of the night and he earned it making 27 saves plus two in the shootout period. Kipprusoff likewise was the games’ second star, largely for the same reason Niemi was the first star with 30 saves of his own. This was a tightly played game with both goalies earning their keep.
Senate Meeting – The Sharks game Tuesday Night against the Flames was their first of five straight games versus teams who call Canada their home. Next on the schedule is the Ottawa Senators this Thursday Night at The Tank. The Senators have had a breakout year this season after being a cellar dweller for the last three years following an ill fated Stanley Cup final appearance against Anaheim in 2007. Ottawa is in 5th place currently in the Eastern Conference standings and boast a strong 26-16-6 mark, good for 58 points. The Senators are lead by former Shark Milan Michalek who has 23 goals on the season. Meanwhile Jason Spezza, Erik Karlsson, Daniel Alfredsson, Nick Foligno and a cast of others lead the Senators high flying attack which has returned Ottawa to the status of being a strong contender. Former Colorado Avs net minder Craig Anderson has been solid in goal for the Senators and has a .910 save percentage for the season. The Senators match up pretty well with the Sharks as this game should be one that is hotly contested and a must see for any hockey fan. With the Sharks still holding third place in the Western Conference standings and four games in hand with the L A Kings, team teal has plenty to play for themselves. We will see what happens here Thursday night.
The King Shark
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