Flame-out in San Jose

RANDY SPORTAK -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:35 AM ET

SAN JOSE -- One by one, nearly every member of the Calgary Flames had filed out of the dressing room.

The silence was near deafening while Dion Phaneuf and Jarome Iginla sat in their chairs, still wearing most of their gear and contemplating the 5-3 Game 7 loss to the San Jose Sharks last night that ended their season.

The pain on their faces said it all, though the captain put it in words earlier.

"I don't know if it was 10 minutes, five minutes, whatever it was, that won them the game," Iginla said. "I don't think we were assertive enough. We knew they were desperate and were gonna come out with a big push."

A push the Flames couldn't withstand and made them first-round victims for the third straight year.

Despite a one-sided first period in which the Sharks controlled every aspect of the game, the Flames were somehow in the driver's seat early in the middle period.

Owen Nolan's breakaway goal had given them a 2-1 lead and they were in a perfect position to pull off the opening-round upset.

Then the Shark attack began, one that Jaws himself would envy.

Jeremy Roenick scored twice, while Joe Pavelski and Devin Setoguchi added singles in the outburst that sent netminder Miikka Kiprusoff to the bench favour of Curtis Joseph and sealed Calgary's fate.

"We wanted to get another one right away," sighed left winger Alex Tanguay. "It was important, especially in their building, we knew they were going to fight hard. They got a couple powerplays where they got momentum and it seems from there, once they scored, we couldn't get back the momentum."

Said head coach Mike Keenan: "Miikka didn't play very well, but our team didn't respond very well, particularly when we had a 2-1 lead. That's when we should have kicked it up a notch and maybe carried the play or at least neutralized the play rather than sitting in the position where we really ignited their resolve. You have to give them credit for really turning it up after they were down a goal.

"They just took control of the game from there on."

San Jose will face Dallas in one Western Conference semifinal. Detroit meets Colorado in the other.

The good news was the Flames showed enough character to take the series against a favoured team to the limit, especially when they trailed after five games. The bad news is they were thrashed when it mattered most.

From the drop of the puck, San Jose was nothing like the same team we saw Sunday night in Calgary when the series was pushed to the limit by a complete Flames effort and 2-0 win.

Instead of feeling the pressure of being a favoured team at home and the frenzied 17,496 on-hand for the first ever seventh game played at the HP Pavilion, the Sharks jumped out of the blocks full-force, winning all the battles and carrying the play.

Joe Thornton's powerplay goal 11 minutes into the night opened the scoring, but Iginla tallied less than 90 seconds later -- also with the man-advantage -- to draw the Flames even.

And when Nolan scored early in the second period, the Flames suddenly looked like a team destined to knock off a Sharks team that finished second in the league during the regular season. But they couldn't maintain the traction.

"I wish you could say why we were inconsistent," Tanguay said. "It's been definitely frustrating. It's certainly a lack of trying. We felt good, we had confidence from the last game. They played good and we just couldn't play the game like we wanted to."

Wayne Primeau's early third-period goal gave the Flames a last ditch of hope, but it wasn't enough.

The Flames will return home today and tomorrow likely empty out their lockers and begin the goodbyes.


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