CALGARY, Alberta — This one was a big step backward.
Scoring continued to be an unsolved mystery for the Sharks on Wednesday night as they dropped a 4-1 decision to the Calgary Flames. It was San Jose's first regulation loss in five games but the 12th game in a row where the team failed to get more than a pair of goals, shootouts excluded.
Third-period tallies by Flames forwards Blake Comeau and Jarome Iginla proved to be the difference. The teams had traded goals in the first two periods, Calgary's coming off the stick of Roman Cervenka and the Sharks' lone goal of the night belonging to Joe Thornton. An empty-net goal by Curtis Glencross in the final minute finished the scoring.
The game featured two goalies seeing action for the first time in weeks. Flames netminder Miikka Kiprusoff was getting his first start after missing 13 games since he sprained a knee ligament Feb. 5. The Sharks countered with backup Thomas Greiss, who hadn't played since Feb. 11 when he took the loss as part of a team-wide meltdown in that 6-2 embarrassment in Columbus.
Starter Antti Niemi had worked nine consecutive games since then.
"We talked about having a plan moving forward and knew we had to get Thomas in at some point to give Nemo a little bit of a breather — although I think Nemo could play every game between now and the end of the year and be fine," Todd McLellan said.
"It's important we get Thomas going and that's what we're doing."
Whatever inspiration the Sharks might have gotten from their 3-2 shootout win in Vancouver the previous night didn't show up on the ice. San Jose, in fact, was much flatter than it had been the past four games, when it went 3-0-1.
The Flames were the first on the scoreboard at 4:27 of the first period when a shot by defenseman Jay Bouwmeester bounced off Greiss's pads and went directly to Cervenka in the left faceoff circle.
Before Greiss could recover, the puck was behind him.
San Jose tied things up with the only goal in the second period, however, when Patrick Marleau pressured Calgary defenseman Mark Giordano to cough up the puck behind his own net. Pavelski took it from there and found Thornton skating right through the slot for a quick shot that beat Kiprusoff at 13:53.
But it didn't take long for Calgary to take control of the game in the third period.
Flames forward Blake Comeau got his first goal of the season at 2:57 when his shot from the right faceoff circle beat Greiss on the far side. Less than two minutes later, an attempted pass from Ryane Clowe to Douglas Murray deep in the Sharks zone was broken up by Calgary forward Jiri Hudler and Iginla fired a 25-foot wrist shot for his seventh goal of the season at 4:36.
The Sharks tried to make it interesting when Comeau drew an interference penalty with 2:31 left in the game and McLellan elected to pull Greiss, giving San Jose a 6-on-4 advantage. But that only ended up giving the Flames the empty-net goal by Glencross with 55.7 seconds left.
Kiprusoff made 32 saves in the victory, while Greiss stopped 23 pucks as his record dropped to 1-3 for the season.