Sharks even series with Flames

Posted: Monday, May 17, 2004

CALGARY, Alberta With Mike Rathje dispensing the punishment this time and Evgeni Nabokov stopping everything he could see, the San Jose Sharks evened the Western Conference finals.

Rathje's first goal of the playoffs started San Jose's four-goal second period and Nabokov made 27 saves in the Sharks' 4-2 victory over the Flames in Game 4 Sunday.

Rathje, still sporting a nasty shiner from his fight with Chris Simon in Game 3, scored on a long slap shot and later added an assist as San Jose jumped all over Calgary in a phenomenal second-period effort. Rathje normally isn't an offensive catalyst, but the defenseman's injury seemed to provide just the motivation he needed.

Captain Patrick Marleau snapped his scoring slump with a goal and an assist, and Jonathan Cheechoo and Vincent Damphousse also scored in San Jose's second straight victory in front of the Flames' intimidating Saddledome crowd.

The road team has won all four games in the series, which is bad news for the Sharks: They'll be back at home for Game 5 on Monday night in the Shark Tank, where San Jose has lost three straight playoff games overall.

Game 6 is back in Calgary on Wednesday night.

Nabokov allowed just two goals in Calgary after yielding eight in the first two games of San Jose's first trip to the conference finals. He was nearly perfect in Game 4, allowing only a strange deflection goal and Simon's score during a two-man advantage with 39.7 seconds left.

Jarome Iginla scored early for the Flames, who lost their composure and defensive focus in the second period. Miikka Kiprusoff, the Flames' playoff savior in the early rounds and in a 49-save performance in Game 1, made just 12 saves and allowed two terrible goals before giving way to Roman Turek in the third period.

Calgary returned home four days ago with a two-game lead and an excellent shot at the franchise's first trip to the Stanley Cup finals in 15 years. But the Sharks gutted out a 3-0 victory in Game 3 and just as the Sharks came unraveled in Game 2, the Flames lost it in Game 4.

The Sharks capitalized on a four-on-two rush for their first goal early in the second period. Kiprusoff fanned on Rathje's long slap shot, the first of several misplays by the Sharks' former backup goalie.

Calgary scored midway through the second period when Iginla's pass to the net was deflected by a San Jose defenseman between Nabokov's legs but the Sharks answered with two goals in the next 2:08.

Kiprusoff set up Cheechoo's goal by lingering behind his net to play the puck and then inexplicably skating the wrong way back around. Cheechoo stole the puck and tucked it home before Kiprusoff got in position.

And 89 seconds later, Damphousse scored his seventh goal of the postseason on an exceptional pass. Marleau found Damphousse behind him while falling to the ice, making the pass with the shaft of his stick.

Marleau ended his seven-game goal-scoring drought late in the period, knocking home another pass in the slot. Cheers from the handful of Sharks fans at the sold-out Saddledome could be heard clearly above the silence of the 19,000-plus red-clad faithful.

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