Flames playoff chances hang by a thread

Sharks 2 Flames 1 CALGARY — Evgeni Nabokov made 38 saves Tuesday night to lead the San Jose Sharks to a 2-1 victory over the Calgary Flames.

San Jose Shark Jason Demers

San Jose Shark Jason Demers

Sharks 2 Flames 1

CALGARY — Evgeni Nabokov made 38 saves Tuesday night to lead the San Jose Sharks to a 2-1 victory over the Calgary Flames.

With the victory, San Jose clinched first place in the Pacific Division for a third consecutive year.

The Sharks also stayed in first place in the Western Conference standings. Chicago, which won 5-2 over Dallas, is two points back. The Blackhawks hold a game in hand.

The Flames, meanwhile, are in serious jeopardy of missing the playoffs for the first time since 2002-03. A Colorado victory Tuesday night over Vancouver would eliminate the Flames from playoff contention.

In 20 seasons since winning the Stanley Cup in 1989, Calgary has missed the playoffs eight previous times and lost out in the first round of the playoffs 10 times.

It would be the first season in his three years as NHL head coach that Brent Sutter will not be in the post-season, having lost in the first round in both of his previous seasons in New Jersey.

Rob Blake and Jamie McGinn supplied the offence for San Jose (49-20-11). The Sharks have gone 6-1-1 since a six-game winless skid had temporarily dropped them to second place in the Pacific behind Phoenix.

Rene Bourque scored the lone goal for Calgary (40-31-9).

The problem for the Flames all season has been its inability to score. Calgary is the second-lowest scoring team in the NHL, ahead of only the Boston Bruins. The Flames have been held to been either shutout or held to one goal 25 times.

Trailing 2-0 entering the third period, Calgary got on the scoreboard at 4:20 on the power play.

After failing to capitalize on it first three man advantages, Bourque scored with Sharks defenceman Rob Blake in the penalty box for delay of game.

Jay Bouwmeester corralled a loose puck, spun and zipped a pass through a crowd that landed right on the stick of Bourque at the side of the net. Bourque easily slid his 26th goal into the open net.

Calgary desperately pressed for the tying goal in the late going but could not beat Nabokov a second time.

The Flames outshot San Jose 17-2 in the third period.

Leading 1-0 after the first period, San Jose surged ahead 2-0 at 5:47 of the second when Miikka Kiprusoff made a stop off Logan Couture but unintentionally cleared the rebound off the shins of McGinn, and the Sharks forward easily slid the puck into the open side.

San Jose opened the scoring at 10:15 of the first period connecting on its lone power play of the opening 40 minutes.

With Couture screening Kiprusoff, Blake ripped a slapshot from the blue-line past the Flames goaltender.

Calgary had opportunities to score in the first period but could not solve Nabokov.

Five minutes into the game, Nabokov kicked out Ales Kotalik’s dangerous shot then dove to make a glove save on Bourque taking away what looked to be a sure goal on the rebound.

Nabokov later in the period thwarted Niklas Hagman with a pad stop as Calgary looked to tie the game.

Doing pretty much all the he could do, Kiprusoff also dazzled the home fans in that first period acrobatically jabbing out his leg to deny Blake at the side of the net.

Nabokov had given up five goals in two of his last three starts.

The sell-out crowd of 19,289 started voicing its frustration late in the second period as Calgary failed to score on their third straight power play.

San Jose finished 1-for-2 with the extra man.

Notes: San Jose finishes with a road record of 24-14-3, which is second best in the league behind Washington… Sharks improve to 29-3-5 when scoring first… Calgary RW Jarome Iginla has no goals in his last nine games. Other slumping Flames forwards include David Moss (1 goal in last 25 games), Matt Stajan (0 goals in 16), Craig Conroy (1 goal in 23), Niklas Hagman (2 goals in 20), Jamal Mayers (1 goal in 25)… The Sharks have won the Pacific Division five of the last eight seasons… Since the Olympics Nabokov has yielded four or more goals in seven of his 16 starts. His record is 8-7-1 in that span… Mikael Backlund’s four-game points streak (five assists) came to an end, as did Dan Boyle’s six-game streak (two goals, six assists).