Flames stun Sharks in amazing comeback
On the same night Miikka Kiprusoff had his worst-ever playoff outing, Curtis Joseph returned to the playoff stage and reminded everyone why he was once considered one of the best post-season goalies in the game.
The San Jose Sharks jumped out to a 3-0 lead after just 3:33, chasing Kiprusoff in the process, but Calgary scored four unanswered goals to record a thrilling 4-3 victory on home ice Sunday night in Game 3 of their Western Conference quarter-final.
Former Shark Owen Nolan scored the winning goal at 16:15 for the Flames, who took a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.
Joseph was solid for Calgary, stopping all 22 shots he faced in relief of Kiprusoff.
A starting goalie during the majority of his 18-season NHL career, Joseph said it was weird to come off the bench.
"I have new respect for the (backup) goalies around the league … to come off the bench and play, it's a different set of circumstances, for sure, but thank goodness our team rallied," Joseph told Hockey Night in Canada.
"Miikka's the best goalie in the league as far as I'm concerned. I've been saying that for a few years now. I know my role … and I was glad to (help) tonight," added Joseph, who was making his first playoff appearance since 2004.
Even after they shockingly fell behind early, the Flames never thought they were out of the game.
"It was a big comeback, especially here in the playoffs," Nolan said. "We're a stubborn group, we play with a lot of pride. We were sleeping early, but we made sure to come back hard.
"It was definitely discouraging to see the way we came out, but we realized once we got our composure back and our work ethic going, we'd be all right."
Focused on containing Thornton
For the third straight game, Joe Thornton, the Sharks' top scorer in the regular season, failed to score, and the San Jose forward has been limited to just two assists in the series.
So, how have the Flames contained him?
"We just tried to focus on him, keep him to the outside," said Nolan. "We know that he's such a great playmaker that we try to take his players away that he's gonna try to get the puck to.
"It's a group effort out there; it's not one guy that's gonna shut him down. We need all of our guys to shut him down."
Calgary's Stephane Yelle was called for a slashing penalty after only 26 seconds, and that opened the floodgates for San Jose.
Ryane Clowe scored his third goal of the series, firing a quick snap shot that beat Kiprusoff on the stick side at 1:31. San Jose struck again when Clowe's point shot was deflected by Patrick Marleau at the side of the net past a helpless Kiprusoff at 3:19.
Kiprusoff was clearly upset
Kiprusoff fished the puck of his net for a third time just 14 seconds later, when Douglas Murray's low shot handcuffed the Flames goalie, stunning the Calgary crowd into silence.
Flames coach Mike Keenan wasted little time in pulling Kiprusoff, who gave up three goals on five shots, in favour of Joseph. Kiprusoff was clearly upset about getting the hook — he stormed back to the locker-room in a huff before returning to sit on the bench with his teammates.
The Flames fought back, and the crowd got back into it when Calgary defenceman Corey Sarich nailed Marleau with a bone-crushing body check along the boards.
"It was a good hit, a good play, and I just had to get up and keep playing," Marleau said.
That gave the Flames new life, and they capitalized on their newfound momentum. Captain Jarome Iginla netted his first goal of the series, scoring on the power play when Dion Phaneuf's shot deflected off his shin, through a crowd of players and past Sharks netminder Evgeni Nabokov.
A wild and unpredictable opening frame gave way to a tight and defensive start to the second period. Excitement was restored at 10:14 when Daymond Langkow notched Calgary's second power-play goal of the game, banging in an Iginla pass underneath Nabokov's pads.
Calgary completed the comeback with a fluky goal early in the third period. Sharks defenceman Marc-Edouard Vlasic was trying to clear the front of the net and as he tangled with Langkow, Phaneuf's point shot ricocheted off his skate and then his stick before sliding into the net.
Joseph came up big when he made four big saves on a Sharks power play, and the Flames fed off the inspirational form of their backup goalie when Nolan netted the winner late in regulation, beating Nabokov on the stick side from the top of the circle.
"There were a ton of people in front of the net and I figured if I can't see the net, he can't see me, so I just shot it. I don't know how it found the back of the net," Nolan said.
Game 4 goes Tuesday in Calgary (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 10 p.m. ET).