Silicon rally falls short

STEVE MACFARLANE

, Last Updated: 10:07 AM ET

SAN JOSE -- Before they returned to the ice for the final period last night, the Calgary Flames knew there would be no backing into the playoffs.

The Colorado Avalanche continued to pour the pressure on the current eighth seed with a 3-1 win over the Vancouver Canucks.

With a one-goal deficit in front of the Flames, the third-period start was key.

But before they could kickstart a comeback, the Sharks took a bite out of their playoff hopes with a quick goal from Mike Grier that set San Jose up for a 4-3 win in front of a sold-out HP Pavilion crowd.

"The Sharks were really good," said Jarome Iginla, who scored twice in the third to make it a close finish.

You could almost hear the air leaking out of the Flames' balloon when the one-timer clanked in off the post 2:29 into the period. The balloon popped altogether when Jonathan Cheechoo was left uncovered at the side of the net to deposit another quick shot past Miikka Kiprusoff at 5:42.

Kiprusoff was under pressure all evening as the Sharks took advantage of a half-dozen powerplay opportunities to tucker out the Flames defensive corps -- a unit that was missing minute-eater Robyn Regehr after he suffered a leg injury in the first period.

"We got ourselves into penalty trouble again. We took too many," said Iginla. "We have a team that has four lines going after it and we need to stay out of the box to keep that momentum, to get those lines on the ice to take that momentum.

"It gives their very stilled guys a chance to control the puck and then feel good about it, to get chances.

"Even if it doesn't go in, it puts the other team on their heels and that was us tonight.

"Some of our biggest energy guys, momentum guys, had to spend a lot of it killing. They did a great job killing but if we're not in the box, those guys are playing in the other team's zone. That's what Yeller (Stephane Yelle) and Freeze (Jeff Friesen) and Nils (Marcus Nilson) have been doing for us, they've been doing it great."

Rhett Warrener and Yelle led a stellar display of penalty killing that kept the Sharks from scoring on any of their six attempts.

Each of them blocked four shots apiece and, when they weren't dropping in front of pucks, Kiprusoff was there.

"They played unbelievable," said Kristian Huselius, who cut the lead to 2-1 in the second period with his 34th of the year. "Kipper was ready to go tonight. The PK did a great job."

Unfortunately for Flames, that left the entire team tired and the Sharks took advantage by ramping up the physical game in response to efforts from Dion Phaneuf and Wayne Primeau.

"I was so proud of our team and how we played," said Sharks head coach Ron Wilson. "We expected them to come at us hard. We came out on top when it came to physicality. That's the type of game I want some of our younger guys to experience right now. If we want to win the Cup, those are the type of games to expect in the Western Conference."

Iginla scored his 38th and 39th goals in the third period but the Sharks already had 40 shots on Kiprusoff when the Flames captain snuck his second past Evgeni Nabokov with less than five minutes left. Goals less than two minutes apart from Milan Michalek and Mark Bell broke a scoreless tie in the second.Huselius said the game could have gone the other way with a couple of good bounces.

"It's not a bad game from us. When they get the lead, they're a tough team to play against," said Huselius, who is looking forward to the opportunity to clinch against the Oilers tomorrow in Calgary. "We just have to go back home and finish it off on Saturday."


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