SUN Hockey Pool

Sharks play Scrooge

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 9:19 AM ET

SAN JOSE -- So much for goodwill from gracious holiday hosts.

Especially when the guests have already been through an arduous journey to pay their visit.

Instead of offering up a turkey and playing Santa in what was the last clash for both teams before Christmas, the San Jose Sharks sent the Calgary Flames home for the holidays with a 4-1 loss to put in their stockings.

It's the third defeat in a road swing shortened to five games from a half-dozen because of the Colorado blizzard that put the Flames in limbo for a few days in Denver.

Calgary, which hadn't played since its Tuesday night win in Los Angeles and spent a couple of days stuck in the snowbound Mile High City, falls to 17-13-3 and sits ninth in the Western Conference, one point back of the three-way Northwest Division tie between Colorado, Edmonton and Minnesota.

Both clubs stuck to tight, defensive game plans, playing a close-to-the vest opening period before the sellout crowd of 17,496 at the HP Pavilion.

The Flames struck first with about two minutes remaining.

Matthew Lombardi was sprung on a breakaway by a nifty bank-shot pass off the boards by Andrew Ference and neatly put a deke on Evgeni Nabokov before sliding the puck five-hole.

It's Lombardi's third shorthanded goal of the season and second on the road swing.

That should have been a good sign, seeing as the Flames went into the night with a perfect 13-0-0 mark this season when leading after the first period and also considering the opening period has been San Jose's best all season.

But the Flames couldn't build on their lead.

During an entertaining stretch of end-to-end action to start the middle period, and seconds after Nabokov got just enough of a Carsen Germyn shot to have it ring off the post, San Jose forward Marcel Goc raced down the left wing and ripped a top-shelf, short-side offering past Miikka Kiprusoff.

From there, the Sharks were off and running.

Buoyed by the turn of events -- it was mere inches that kept Calgary from doubling its lead -- the hosts cranked it up a notch, holding at one point an 11-1 edge in shots in the period.

Using his team's third powerplay of the night, while the Flames had none, super sophomore Milan Michalek was johnny-on-the-spot for a gift of a go-ahead goal.

Kiprusoff only caught a piece of Matt Carle's point shot and the puck trickled through into the crease, where Michalek was alone for the easy tap-in.

Early in the third period, Kiprusoff made a monumental miscue and the Sharks capitalized to make it a two-goal lead.

Instead of hanging onto the puck after catching Curtis Brown's long shot, Kiprusoff elected to play it out to the slot.

The weak pass was intercepted by Mark Smith, who easily skated around the startled netminder and deposited it into the open cage.

At least Calgary continued to pressure the Sharks after falling behind by two but the Flames simply couldn't solve Nabokov.

Scott Hannan iced the game with an empty netter with 41.5 seconds remaining.

San Jose improved its record to 25-11-0, 10 points back of Pacific Division- and Western Conference-leading Anaheim.

After a two-day break for Christmas, the Flames return to action Boxing Day to face the Vancouver Canucks in the first part of a home-and-home set.


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