The Calgary Flames refused to be extinguished Sunday night, forcing a decisive Game 7 with a determined — and winning — effort amid a sea of red-clad fans at the Pengrowth Saddledome.
Miikka Kiprusoff made 21 saves as the Flames staved off elimination with a 2-0 victory over the San Jose Sharks, tying their best-of-seven Western Conference quarter-final at three wins apiece.
Owen Nolan, middle, celebrates after scoring in Sunday's 2-0 Flames triumph.
(Larry MacDougal/Canadian Press)
"We're really pleased with our effort tonight," Flames head coach Mike Keenan said.
"We didn't have the sense of urgency that we need," Sharks head coach Ron Wilson said. "We just didn't get to pucks first."
It was Kiprusoff's sixth playoff shutout, the other five coming in Calgary's run to the Stanley Cup final in 2003-04.
"We have got an excellent goaltender, as they do," Keenan said.
Kiprusoff's shutout was a timely one because imbalanced scoring has been a series-long problem for the seventh-seeded Flames, who have struggled to get goals from anyone not named Iginla.
But Owen Nolan opened the scoring midway through the first period, and Daymond Langkow found the back of the net late in the second.
"Those two have been contributors and the upside is we have others who can score — and expect them to score," Keenan said. "If you play well defensively, you will get offensive opportunities, particulary when you have the lead."
"Everybody has chipped in, one way or another," Langkow told CBC Sports. "The main thing is all the little things, like battles along the boards and blocking shots."
The win halted a two-game losing skid and continued a trend that has seen the Flames not lose more than two games in a row since Jan. 15.
"Consistency has hurt us a little bit, and that was the most consisent effort we have had to this point," Keenan said. "I was more pleased with the execution and attention to detail, particularly our hard forecheck."
Evgeni Nabokov posted 23 saves for the second-ranked Sharks who, poised for the kill, lacked bite.
"For some reason, we were flat," Wilson said. "We got beat in every possible category.
"You don't have any offence if you don't win any faceoffs. We had only 14 hits and that is not nearly enough."
"The frustrating part was it wasn't as if we brought our game and they shut us down," Sharks forward Ryane Clowe said. "I thought we shut ourselves down."
Calgary opened the scoring 11:33 into the contest as Kristian Huselius backhanded a bouncing puck off the leg of Sharks defenceman Christian Ehrhoff directly to Nolan, who slid it in the far side for his second goal and fifth point of the series — all on home ice.
"We came out with a better spark tonight," Nolan told CBC Sports. "We were trying to get the puck to the net and whack away."
All five of Nolan's playoff points have come at the Saddledome, where he had 11 goals and a plus-11 rating compared to five goals and a minus-5 rating on the road.
"I have had opportunities in other buildings," he said. "But for whatever reason, they just haven't gone in."
Langkow extends lead
Jarome Iginla nearly made it 2-0 in the waning seconds of the first period, beating Nabokov between the pads with a backhand shot as he fended off Sharks defenceman Douglas Murray, only to watch the puck graze the right post and slide wide of the net.
Calgary eventually extended its lead as Alex Tanguay chipped the puck off the boards to Langkow, who scored his third on a wrist shot from the faceoff circle with 57 seconds left in the second period.
"It was far from over at that point," Langkow said. "They have a great team over there.
"They came on strong in the third. We were able to hold them off."
Kiprusoff was tested early in the third period by Sharks sniper Jonathan Cheechoo, who swept outside the defence to fire a point-blank shot that was stopped.
The Flames have suffered first-round exits every spring since reaching the Stanley Cup finals in 2003-04, falling to the Detroit Red Wings last season and to the Anaheim Ducks the season before.
But Calgary's special teams have been superior in the series and, considering the Flames took Game 1 in San Jose and how they outworked the Sharks in Game 6, will prove a worthy opponent in Game 7 at HP Pavilion on Tuesday night (CBC, 10 p.m. ET).
"If I have to manufacture desperation, we're in dire straits," Wilson said. "Our players know what is at stake.
"We have to play with a little more passion, a little more aggression. We will be fine."With files from the Canadian Press