Flames 4 Sharks 0
CALGARY — With Rene Bourque scoring in bunches and Miikka Kiprusoff shutting down the opposition, the Calgary Flames are proving to be very tough to beat.
Bourque scored two more goals and Kiprusoff made 27 saves as the Flames beat the San Jose Sharks 4-0 Sunday for their fourth win in five games.
Coming off a three-goal, four-point night Friday in Calgary’s 6-2 win in Columbus, Bourque picked up where he left off, scoring his fifth and sixth goals of the season in a four-goal first period.
“Any time you’re scoring you want to have the puck on your stick,” said Bourque. “I feel like I can make plays happen right now.”
Playing right wing on a line with Niklas Hagman and Olli Jokinen, Bourque has made an big impact since his return from a head injury, scoring six times in four games. He has three game-winning goals, tying him for top spot in the NHL with Chicago’s Patrick Sharp.
“He’s a big strong guy and when he plays that way and he’s very involved in the game emotionally, he wants to be the difference out there,” said Flames coach Brent Sutter. “He finds those areas he can shoot the puck in and he goes to the net and when he’s in that mindset, in that groove to do it he’s a very effective player.”
It was the second shutout of the season, and second in his last three starts, for Kiprusoff. The Finn has 36 shutouts over his career.
Kiprusoff was busiest in the second period as the Sharks outshot Calgary 12-10, but could not cut into their four-goal deficit.
During one stretch of dangerous pressure on a power play, San Jose put three shots on goal but Kiprusoff calmly turned them all aside, including a sharp pad stop off Ryane Clowe.
“They did start shooting a little more at the end of the second period, but we played smart and it’s pretty nice when you have a lead like that,” Kiprusoff said.
Jarome Iginla and Craig Conroy also scored for Calgary (5-3-0), which kicked off a five-game homestand. The Flames meet the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday.
San Jose (3-3-1) wraps up a three-game road trip with its first loss away from home.
“Coming off of back-to-back nights, they wanted to get on us early, we knew that was their game plan, we just couldn’t stop them,” said Sharks captain Joe Thornton. “After the first 10 minutes, the game was over.”
The effort was a stark contrast from 24 hours earlier during an impressive 6-1 thrashing of the Edmonton Oilers.
“In the first period, there could have been two pucks on the ice and we wouldn’t have had either one of them,” said San Jose coach Todd McLellan. “We were that slow, we were pushed off pucks, we didn’t compete along the boards, we weren’t playing the way we were supposed to play as far as the system went. Very disappointing.”
The Sharks will look to rebound Wednesday night when they host New Jersey. McLellan will be expecting a much improved effort against the Devils.
“I want to see us start to win some battles,” said McLellan. “I want to see us not wait for power plays. I want to see us compete five-on-five, I went to see us get the puck up quick, I want to see us get to through the neutral zone quicker. I want to see an honest forecheck.”
Calgary opened the scoring on a power play at 4:12 when Bourque blasted a cross-ice feed from Hagman past Antti Niemi on the glove side.
Iginla’s snapshot made it 2-0 less than two minutes later and Niemi got the hook from coach Todd McLellan after surrendering Conroy’s one-timer at 8:36 of the first period.
“It was a really tough, three goals on not too many shots,” said Niemi, who officially was credited with just two saves.
Things didn’t start much better for replacement Antero Niittymaki, who had a Bourque shot go off him and trickle in the net at 11:47.
However, he robbed Bourque on a 20-footer from the slot less than a minute later and stayed perfect the rest of the way finishing with 24 saves.
Discipline was also a key factor for the Flames matching up against the league’s No. 2 power play. While enjoying six man advantages themselves. The Flames were short handed just twice. San Jose entered the night a combined 5-for-10 in the first two stops of its road trip.
Notes: Calgary’s five-game homestand equals the longest of the season. The Flames also play five straight at the Scotiabank Saddledome Feb. 16-21. … For the second game in a row, veteran Calgary D Steve Staios was a healthy scratch with newly acquired Brendan Mikkelson again taking his place. … Niemi’s goals-against average jumped to 4.52 while his save percentage fell to .854… Five of the previous six games between the two clubs were decided by one goal… Nine Flames forwards had points in the first period.