CALGARY – Owen Nolan scored the game-winning goal with 3:45 left in the third period as the Calgary Flames overcame a disastrous start Sunday night to come from behind for a dramatic 4-3 victory over the San Jose Sharks.
Calgary took a 2-1 lead in the Western Conference opening round series with the win. Game 4 is Tuesday at the Pengrowth Saddledome.
On the winning goal, Nolan curled out of the corner, and with both Brian Campbell and Joe Thornton screening goaltender Evgeni Nabokov the veteran blasted a slapshot into the top corner from the top of the faceoff circle.
“It was definitely discouraging to see the way we came out, but we realized once we got our composure back, got our work ethic going, that we would be all right,” Nolan told CBC.
Forty-year-old Curtis Joseph was the unlikely winning goaltender, stopping all 22 shots he faced after relieving Miikka Kiprusoff 3:33 into the first period after San Jose jumped out to a 3-0 lead.
No save was bigger than the shoulder stop he made on Ryane Clowe from close-in six minutes into the third period with the game tied, as the Sharks failed to capitalize on a too many ice penalty on Calgary.
“Miikka’s the best goalie in the league as far as I’m concerned. I’ve been saying that for a few years now,” Joseph told CBC after the game. “I know my role … and I was glad to (help) tonight.”
The Sharks also got a power-play at 16:39 of the third when Dion Phaneuf cleared the puck over the glass and got a delay of game penalty. However, San Jose could not solve Joseph, who was making his first playoff appearance since 2004.
“Thank goodness our team rallied,” Joseph said. “We really picked up our game after a shaky start. I’m just happy we won.”
Jarome Iginla, Daymond Langkow, and Phaneuf also scored for Calgary. Clowe, Patrick Marleau, and Douglas Murphy scored for San Jose.
Calgary chipped away at its early deficit, getting a goal back later in the first, scoring the lone goal of the second, and finally tying game 1:18 into the third on Phaneuf’s second goal of the playoffs.
Although it originally looked like it was deflected by Langkow screening in front, it was instead a sequence of bad luck for Sharks defenceman Marc-Edouard Vlasic, who was covering Langkow. Phaneuf’s shot from the blue-line first deflected off Vlasic’s skate, then caromed off his stick before trickling behind Evgeni Nabokov.
Trailing 3-1 in the second, Calgary narrowed the deficit to one at 10:14 when Langkow struck on the power-play at 10:14.
Momentum began to turn back around at 12:54 of the first when Flames defenceman Cory Sarich caught Marleau with his head down laying a shoulder into the Sharks captain that sent him flying into the boards, bloodying both his eye and nose.
In the skirmish that ensued after the clean hit, San Jose was assessed an extra roughing penalty and with the crowd still buzzing about the hit, Calgary needed just 28 seconds to connect on the power-play with Phaneuf’s wrist shot from the blue-line deflecting off Iginla in front.
With the crowd back into it, Calgary continued to press and nearly made it 3-2 one minute later when Kristian Huselius neatly set up Langkow in front only to be robbed by Nabokov, who acrobatically jabbed out his pad deny what looked to be a sure goal.
Adrian Aucoin also had a chance before the first period but put a slapshot off the crossbar after Owen Nolan set him up in the slot.
The noise was deafening in the ‘sea of red’ as Flames fans welcomed Calgary to the ice before the game.
The elation turned to boos 26 seconds into the game when Calgary’s Stephane Yelle was penalized for slashing, bringing back memories of the barrage of penalties called against Calgary in the second period of Thursday’s game two.
San Jose quickly capitalized, with Clowe taking a pass from Thornton and ripping a 30-foot wrist shot inside the goal post on Kiprusoff for his third of the post-season.
Clowe was at it again less than two minutes later, controlling the puck in the Flames zone and sending a shot towards the net that was steered in by Marleau.
The Sharks scored again 14 seconds later when Murray pinched in from the blue-line and whipped a shot past Kiprusoff at 3:33, bringing a premature end to the evening for Kiprusoff and silencing the sell-out crowd of 19,289.
It was an astonishing start to the game after Kiprusoff had played so brilliantly in games one and two, turning aside 78 of 82 shots.
Calgary finished 2-for-2 with the extra man while San Jose was 1-for-5.
Notes: Calgary made its first line-up change of the series as Marcus Nilson dressed in place of David Moss… Joseph’s last playoff appearance was against the Flames on May 3, 2004 while he was with Detroit. Martin Gelinas scored on Joseph in overtime as Calgary won 1-0 to win the series four games to two… It was only the third Kiprusoff has been taken out of a playoff game. Roman Turek played 19:29 in 2004 and Jamie McLennan played 0:18 in 2006… San Jose improves its post season record at the Saddledome to 5-2 (+Sun)… NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman was at the game.