Flames cook Sharks

Posted: Monday, May 10, 2004

SAN JOSE, Calif. Overtime suits the Calgary Flames particularly when their goalie seems determined to show his former teammates exactly what they gave up.

Steve Montador scored 18:43 into overtime, and Miikka Kiprusoff stopped 49 shots in the Calgary Flames' 4-3 victory over the San Jose Sharks in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals on Sunday.

Alex Korolyuk scored with 3:21 left in regulation to force overtime for the Sharks, who set a franchise playoff record with 52 shots. But Kiprusoff, who became a star after the Sharks traded him to Calgary last November, turned aside nearly everything while winning a duel with Evgeni Nabokov, his longtime teammate.

Craig Conroy got two goals and Krzysztof Oliwa also scored for the Flames, who won for the fourth time in five overtime playoff games. Calgary followed its second-round upset of Detroit, which included two OT wins, by stealing home-ice advantage from the Sharks in the opener of the Flames' first trip to the conference finals since 1989.

The Sharks held Flames captain Jarome Iginla without a shot in regulation and dominated overtime, outshooting Calgary 12-5 but Iginla made the game-winning pass to Montador. The low-scoring, seldom-used defenseman skated untouched into the slot and beat Nabokov, who made 33 saves.

Mike Ricci and Todd Harvey scored in the second period for the Sharks, who have lost two straight home playoff games after winning their first five to earn the franchise's first trip to the conference finals. Game 2 is Tuesday night in San Jose.

Both teams stuck to the strategies that propelled them into this unlikely matchup of two teams that missed the playoffs last season. San Jose rallied from 14th place in the conference last spring to the best season in franchise history, while the sixth-seeded Flames ended an eight-season playoff drought before upsetting Vancouver and Detroit.

The Sharks specialized in outstanding first-period efforts this season, and they got 18 shots in the opening 20 minutes of Game 1 but Kiprusoff turned them away, and the Flames got goals from Oliwa and Conroy, who capitalized on an odd-man rush.

Kiprusoff lost his scoreless streak of nearly 170 minutes on Ricci's rebound goal midway through the second period. Harvey tied it in the final minute of the period, deflecting Wayne Primeau's slap shot and capturing the momentum.

But Calgary kept to its hard-hat mentality, grinding out scoring chances and playing keep-away in the Sharks' zone until Conroy found himself alone near the blue line. His floating shot barely got past Nabokov, who was screened.

The Flames seemed headed for victory until San Jose got an extraordinary bit of luck. From the boards, Korolyuk absently flung the puck to the net but Nils Ekman completely screened Kiprusoff, who didn't see the knuckling puck until it was floating over his shoulder.

Kiprusoff stopped 90 consecutive shots during a scoreless streak that included two 1-0 shutouts that finished off the Red Wings.



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