Posted on April 10, 2008 02:32 AM | Permalink
SAN JOSE -- Best thing Stephane Yelle can recall, he actually did score two goals in a playoff game.
In the minors.
In the NHL? Yeah, right.
The reminder came during the celebration after Yelle's two-goal performance paced the Flames to a 3-2 win over the San Jose Sharks Wednesday night to open the first-round, best-of-seven series.
That's when Yelle was asked if he considered himself a checker.
"Uh, yeah," he said with a laugh.
But every checker has his day, and the veteran with a pair of Stanley Cup rings to his name had his by pacing the Flames to a surprising victory before the sellout crowd of 17,496 at the HP Pavilion.
"We always talk about guys having big games and you don't know who it's gonna be," teammate Craig Conroy said. "It's not always gonna be Jarome (Iginla) and Juice (Kristian Huselius) and Lanks (Daymond Langkow) and Tangs (Alex Tanguay). It's gonna be other guys and that was great to see."
Yelle opened the scoring by deflecting a Robyn Regehr point shot less than three minutes into the game and then netted the game winner late in the second period.
It restored a two-goal edge and stemmed the tide while the Sharks were pushing for the equalizer.
That goal, though, he had to credit Iginla.
Iginla became a human highlight reel by stealing the puck from Brian Campbell at the Calary blue-line and fighting off the Sharks defencemen to earn a breakaway.
Sharks goalie Evgeni Nabokov stopped his shot, but the rebound came right to Yelle and he put it into the net before Iginla took it off the moorings in a collision.
Calgary has won six of seven all-time playoff games in San Jose, including all three during the 2004 Western Conference final upset.
The Flames will try to increase their record in tonight's Game 2.
"We want them both," Conroy said. "When you get the first one, you want the second one. We're not thinking split, we want another one.
"To get two here and then go back home would be nice."
Dion Phaneuf also scored for the Flames, who staked themselves to a two-goal lead a little more than five minutes into the game.
Ryane Clowe scored both goals for the Sharks, his second with 56.1 seconds remaining in regulation.
The Sharks couldn't solve Flames goalie Miikka Kiprusoff a third time, and he ended the night with 37 saves.
"I am encouraged on how we played," said Sharks head coach Ron Wilson. "We have to make Kipper's job harder with more traffic in front of him. You look at how Ryane Clowe played, six or eight shots on goal. He was going hard in front of the net and he was rewarded.
"We need more guys willing to go in front of the net and screen. ... We can be more determined in front of the net."