Phaneuf ends goal drought

RANDY SPORTAK, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:16 AM ET

SAN JOSE -- On the ice, Dion Phaneuf's exuberance couldn't be missed.

When his game-winning shot hit the twine, it not only proved to be the difference in the Calgary's Flames 3-2 victory over the San Jose Sharks last night, but it also snapped his scoring drought at 25 games.

Afterwards, though, the high-profile defenceman played it cool, not admitting to feeling too much relief.

"It was a big win for our team. And it definitely felt good to get that one -- that's for sure," Phaneuf said. "It was a battle. They played hard. We played hard. A tight checking game, what we expected from them. We knew coming into this building they play well, and it's a huge, huge win for our team."

With less than four minutes remaining, Phaneuf was fed the puck deep in the right circle. He sent what appeared to be a harmless looking shot on net, but Sharks defenceman Marc-Edouard Vlasic deflected it by his netminder Evgeni Nabokov for an own-goal.

Phaneuf's reaction told the tale. He screamed out in elation and pumped both fists, even if he didn't want to admit too much after.

"Oh, there is relief," said Flames captain Jarome Iginla. "He's a top goal-scoring defenceman. Although he does many other things, he's very good (at scoring). We know he's gotten a lot of chances, and they're going to go in.

"It's nice not only to see him get a goal, but it's a big goal. When you're used to scoring as many goals as he is, it's always in your head to get it kick-started."

Phaneuf's goal, just his fourth of the season, resulted in just the first regulation-time home loss of the season for the Western Conference-best Sharks.

Maybe now, Phaneuf will go on a scoring binge.

"It feels good to get one, but I'm not going to change the way I've been playing all year," he said. "I've been getting pucks to the net. Luckily, this one went in."

For the Flames (27-12-4), it was a big change from their last visit to the Shark Tank, a 6-1 shellacking in mid-November.

Iginla, however, pointed out the win was more about proving themselves again after beating the Sharks last week at the Saddledome.

"We knew the Sharks weren't happy (after the last meeting) and knew they would be prepared -- talking about this game an trying to get some vengeance -- so we knew they'd be ready," Iginla said. "They were -- they got that early goal -- so this win is something to build on. It was a very good game for us."

The Sharks' Ryane Clowe opened the scoring exactly one minute into the game to ignite the 17,496 fans, but the Flames recovered and twice erased deficits on second-period goals by Craig Conroy and Daymond Langkow.

The intense affair appeared headed to extra time when Phaneuf scored for the first time since Remembrance Day, a drought that began when the Flames faced the Sharks for the first time this season.

Since that loss, the Flames have put together an 18-3-4 mark that has them nine points up on their Northwest Division rivals and now pushing to be considered part of the league's upper echelon.

"We want to keep climbing, keep moving up, getting better and get into that next tier, keep earning respect ..." Iginla said. "Also, it's to keep proving it to each other. We want to keep building, get our confidence to grow and believe we're going to find ways to win all different style of games."

Joe Thornton also scored for the Sharks (32-6-5).

The Flames return home to play host to the Phoenix Coyotes tomorrow night.


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