Sharks 4, Flames 2
If the San Jose Sharks can just figure out how to overcome the home-ice disadvantage in the Western Conference finals, Mike Rathje believes they're ready to put this series away.
Rathje's first goal of the playoffs started San Jose's four-goal second period and Evgeni Nabokov made 27 saves in the Sharks' 4-2 victory over the Flames in Game 4 Sunday, evening the series at two games apiece.
The road team has won all four games in the conference finals, which is bad news for the Sharks. They will be back home for Game 5 on Monday night in the Shark Tank, where San Jose has lost three straight playoff games overall.
But after an impressive effort from nearly all of the Sharks, particularly on defense, momentum actually might mean something in this topsy-turvy series.
"We're going to go home, get some rest and do exactly the same things we did here," Rathje said after the Sharks wrapped up their second straight win in front of the Flames' intimidating Saddledome crowd. "We know how to win at home -- really."
Rathje, still sporting a nasty black eye 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.
"This is the playoffs, and that kind of [goonery], it doesn't work," Rathje said.
Captain Patrick Marleau snapped his scoring slump with a goal and an assist, and Jonathan Cheechoo and Vincent Damphousse.
Game 6 will be 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 40 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.
But the Flames have been here before: Their previous two playoff series against Vancouver and Detroit also were tied heading into Game 5, and the young team handled the pressure splendidly.
"It's a best-of-three series now, and we've won both of our best-of-threes this season," Iginla said. "We've always found a way to get out of this, and we'll try to do it again."