Strange that such an innocuous game ended this much drama.
The San Jose Sharks defeated the Calgary Flames tonight by the score of 2-1 in the shootout, and while most of the game was a bit of a snoozer (especially compared to recent games the Sharks have been involved in), the overtime period was stuffed with enough bad blood, missed calls and nail biting drama to fill a normal sixty minute affair.
In the overtime period, the action was fast and the Sharks dominated play, although the Flames definitely had their chances to push the outcome in their favor. With just a minute or so left, though, the Sharks won the game on a Justin Braun slap shot with Tommy Wingels screening goalie Miikka Kiprusoff.
Not so fast.
The goal horn never indicated a Sharks goal, and the far referee skated over to indicate the call of "no-goal" on the ice. According to the official, Wingels interfered with Kiprusoff and therefore the goal was not only no good, it was also non-reviewable.
"I thought it was a good goal," said Wingels, "I bumped Kiprusoff earlier in the game and I think he had that in mind when he saw me going to the net again. I'll have to watch it on replay"
None of the Sharks would come out directly and say that Kiprusoff sold the contact, but replays clearly showed that Wingels didn't even touch the Flames netminder. Instead, Olli Jokinen, a Flames forward that was caught up with Wingels on the play, knocked his own goalie out of position.
Sold contact or not, coach Todd McLellan instead expressed a bit of frustration with the way the call on the ice was made.
"[The officials] have a tough job to do, let me start with the good stuff," said McLellan, "but if you make that call you have to be 100% sure. And what I don't understand is the positioning of it. The referee that's 85 or 90 feet away makes the call when one is only 15 feet away."
There aren't many who would disagree with McLellan's point there, but quorum or not, the call on the ice was made and the Sharks had to pick up the pieces and move on. With only a minute left to play, time expired and the teams headed to the shootout.
Antti Niemi stopped both Jarome Iginla and Mike Camalleri while Michal Handzus and Brent Burns scored for San Jose to finally secure the two points they deserved to win earlier in the evening. The performances for Burns and Niemi in the skills competition were a perfect topper to a stellar night for each player.
We'll start with Brent Burns, who skated with speed and strength all night, especially on a sequence that tied the game for San Jose in the third. Burns powered past a Calgary defenseman on the wall, found Handzus in the slot who pumped a puck on net that Torrey Mitchell was able to backhand past Kiprusoff.
Speaking of players who have been playing well, Torrey Mitchell has been a much improved player since his benching in Columbus, a fact that hasn't gone unnoticed.
"It's pretty evident for all of us, you don't have to be a hockey expert, that he got the message," stated McLellan of Mitchell's play. "He's skating harder; he's much more involved in the play. We talk about leaving a mark on a game. It's not always a goal or an assist, but you can actually have an impact on the outcome, from a positive viewpoint. And, [Mitchell], since that day, has had that most nights."
Mitchell's goal would have mattered little, though, if Antti Niemi didn't keep the Sharks in the game. Calgary outshot San Jose in both the first and second frames yet Niemi kept them in it until the very end, and turned away two talented scorers in the shootout.
The Sharks will only get two points for the win that had to be earned twice, but the fact that they were able to come back from such a significant let down is impressive. Even more impressive is that the Sharks are still finding ways to win without key pieces; along with Martin Havlat, Ryane Clowe and Andrew Desjardins are sidelined as well. This type of character win is exactly what the team needed after failing in Chicago and it's something to build on before facing Ottawa Thursday.