Hockey Night in San Jose: Sharks grind out 4-3 win over Calgary Flames, Pavelski-Clowe-Couture line combines for 9 points

By Jon Swenson - Last updated: Monday, November 15, 2010 - Save & Share - Leave a Comment

The Sharks avenged their worst lost of the season as the second line of Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture and Ryane Clowe exploded for 3 goals and 9 points en route to a 4-3 win against the Calgary Flames on Saturday night. In front of a sellout crowd at HP Pavilion in San Jose and a national audience as the night game on Hockey Night in Canada, Joe Pavelski and Ryane Clowe each snapped 8-game scoreless streaks and goaltender Antti Niemi stopped 28 of 31 shots to register his first win since the season opening game October 8th in Sweden.

After the win San Jose captain Joe Thornton had a thinly vieled comment for the Flames. “Are they (a rival)? They are not like Anaheim, I guess they have played (San Jose) a couple of times in the playoffs. It is not quite there like us and Anaheim, but it is getting there.”

One of the steps towards that rivalry was October 24th on the road in Calgary. After blitzing goaltender Antti Niemi for 3 goals inside of 9 minutes, the Sharks were left looking inward at a lack of disciplined play and defensive zone coverage. Less than a minute into the first period on Saturday night, newly minted right wing Joe Pavelski made sure that game number 242 of the 2010-11 NHL season had a different storyline. A low cycle by the Clowe-Couture-Pavelski line created a point blank scoring chance for Pavelski. Calgary’s Olli Jokinen was forced to take an interference call to prevent a backhand shot on goal.

The Sharks would waste no time converting the first of five power play opportunities. Defenseman Jason Demers found Thornton open across the slot, and fired a cross-ice pass on his stick. Joe Thornton buried it for his team leading 6th goal of the season (tied with Couture, Heatley, Marleau). Thornton also leads the Sharks in assists (10, tied with Boyle) and points (16) despite recently being tabbed with a 2 game suspension.

The Calgary Flames are a team struggling to keep their head above water. In the midst of a 1-6 stretch heading into San Jose, the fans and media in Alberta are starting to look for scapegoats. Last season the media began grinding down 27-year old defenseman Jay Bouwmeester. With a $6.6M cap hit, Bouwmeester underwhelmed with only 3 goals and 26 points in a full 82 games last year. Hockey Night in Canada zero’d in on his play of the puck out of his own zone, and kept a constant mention of his lack of goal production from the blueline. Against the Sharks Bouwmeester was suiting up for his 440th NHL game, the NHL’s current ironman record.

In a slump that has seen The Calgary Flames drop to second to last place in the Western Conference, this Saturday’s Hockey Night in Canada focused on captain Jarome Iginla. The 2-time 50-goal scorer, 2-time Rocket Richard winner (2002, 2004), and 3-time Canadian Olympian was said to have had his worst game on Friday with 0 points and a -4 against the Phoenix Coyotes. Worse than the stat line were several highlights showing Iginla caught out of position, without moving his legs to get back into plays. One commentator described Iginla’s body language as that of a “beaten” player. On Saturday’s Coach’s Corner, Don Cherry said that Iginla is a star player that needs 20-22 minutes a night instead of 12-14. Prior to meeting the Sharks, there were rumors he would be demoted to the 4th line.

San Jose would keep its foot on the gas pedal in the second half of the first period, but Iginla was playing like a forward possessed. After Thornton was tossed for a defensive zone faceoff, Marleau won a clean backhand draw to his left for defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic. Vlasic was immediately challenged and knocked down by Iginla, who proceeded to “fall” on the defenseman and hold him down with his knee. Vlasic was able to poke the puck up the wall, and Marleau beat Craig Conroy to clear the play out of the zone.

The Sharks would add to their margin at 10:24 as Ryane Clowe scored his third goal of the season, his first in 8 games. With Logan Couture set up as a screen in front, Clowe hammered a shot up high blocker side. The offensive opportunities would continue as Calgary defenseman Cory Sarich took a double minor for high sticking Devin Setoguchi later in the period. Despite solid offensive zone time and puck possession, San Jose could not convert on the 4 minute man advantage.

Dany Heatley took a boarding minor with 17 seconds left to play in the first period. Early in the second, defenseman Dan Boyle fired a puck over the glass to give the Flames a lengthy 5-on-3. Niemi made a hard push left to right on a pass across the crease, but as he lifted his pad to extend furthur to his right, a shot by defenseman Mark Giordano slipped under him.

Cory Sarich, who has a history with the Sharks after elbowing Patrick Marleau in the head in the first round of the 2008 WCQF, leveled Jamie McGinn with a hip check along the players bench late in the second period. Linemate Jamal Mayers immediately took exception with the hit and dropped the gloves. Mayers was given an instigator, 5 minutes for fighting, and a 10 minute misconduct. The Sharks right wing dropped Sarich with a long right hand, but it forced another penalty kill scenario, one of 7 they would face on the night.

Despite leading the Sharks with 68 shots on goal, center turned right wing Joe Pavelski has been held scoreless for 8 games. Pavelski finally broke through at 16:22. After Vlasic kept the puck in at the point, and wired a pass around the boards to Clowe behind the net, both Couture and Pavelski drove forward. A quick pass by Clowe deflected off Couture, and was kicked off the skates by Pavelski. Craig Conroy skated through the stick of Pavelski before he could shoot, but Logan Couture spun and fired a shot off the leg pad of Kiprusoff. Alone with the puck on the far side, Pavelski fanned on the shot but got enough for the puck to trickle 5-hole. 3-1 Sharks.

San Jose head coach Todd McLellan described the effort of Pavelski and Clowe. “They have been snakebit. They have been our best line the last 2 or 3 games. When you have been playing hard and doing the right things, eventually you are going to get rewarded.”

A desperate Flames squad would press hard in the third period. Defenseman Jay Bouwmeester beat Patrick Marleau to the front of the net after a 3-on-3 rush, and Matt Stajan threaded a pass through traffic to his forehand. Bouwmeester scored his second goal of the season 9:14 into the third period.

The Sharks were reeling early in the third, outshot 6-1 and outscored by a goal when Ryane Clowe drove the puck down the right wing. On a 2-on-1 with Logan Couture, Clowe pulled up inside of the blue line and saucered a pass out of the reach of defenseman Brendan Mikkelson. The left shot Couture coasted in on a frozen Miikka Kiprusoff, forcing the Sharks forward to make the first move. That first move was a quick wrist shot that found the back of the net for his 6th goal of the season, assisted by Clowe and Pavelski.

Antti Niemi battled hard against Calgary. He looked focused in goal, and saw the bulk of the shots coming at him. Hockey Night in Canada analyst and former Sharks goaltender Kelly Hrudey said that Saturday night, “Niemi had his best game in that uniform.” With 54.5 seconds left, he would be tested again as the Flames pulled Kiprusoff for an extra attacker. Tanguay and Giordano created shooting lanes with passes on the point, and Iginla buried a top shelf one-timer from a hard angle on the left wing. It was also Iginla’s first goal in 8 games. The Flames would continue to push, but Iginla and Tanguay could not get subsequent shots through traffic as time ran out.

“We won, there is a real positive,” San Jose Sharks head coach Todd McLellan replied what positives his team could take away from the game. “Our penalty kill had to do well today, they had to work far too many times again, just some not very smart plays putting us in that position.” When asked how his team needs to respond to recent struggles, McLellan was blunt. “We are competing hard enough, we have to find a way to get the frustration out of our game. We will probably do that by executing for 60 minutes, not 55, not 50. We are constantly a work in progress.”

[Update] Johnson: Familiar problem dogs Flames as they hit vital stretch – Calgary Herald.

With 16 games, or virtually one-fifth of the season, gone, they can look back positively on Rene Bourque’s hot streaks; what 35-year-old Canuck cast-off Brendan Morrison has added on the ice, as well as his professionalism in the room; Kiprusoff, naturally; Mark Giordano, also naturally; Curtis Glencross, off and on; Cory Sarich’s appetite for contact.

But two goals from Niklas Hagman? Not enough. One from Matt Stajan? Not enough. Three from Iginla? Not near enough. Six points from a guy that skates as fluidly as Jay Bouwmeester? Not enough. A minus-10 from Ian White? Ewwwww…

[Update2] Coach’s Corner: Iginla needs more ice time – HNIC.

[Update3] Flames Insider: Iginla issue picks up steam – Calgary Herald.

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