The San Jose Sharks are a point away from clinching a playoff spot, but securing the Pacific Division and reaching the top of the Western Conference will take a lot more work.
A win Monday night in Calgary will take care of the former while also extending their lead over Anaheim in their quest for a Pacific title. The Flames, however, have provided plenty of problems in opponents’ defensive zones in recent weeks.
San Jose (46-18-8) wasn’t able to finish the job in Saturday’s 3-2 home shootout loss to Washington after taking a 2-1 lead on James Sheppard’s third-period goal, but it still managed to reach the 100-point mark for the sixth time in the last seven 82-game seasons.
"We would have liked to have had both points but you have to look at how we played," Sharks coach Todd McLellan told the team’s official website. "I thought we played solid defense against a solid offense. You play 82 games and you are going to have some of those bounces."
Antti Niemi made 23 saves, and though he didn’t get the win, he’s 6-1-1 with a 1.86 goals-against average in March. The two he allowed against Washington came off his own players, but the Sharks still didn’t feel very deserving.
"Those were two strange goals, but we didn’t really have too much sustained offense in their zone," Sharks captain Joe Thornton said. "They’re quick to close on us. I thought we carried the game most of the night but they go home with two points and we don’t."
After scoring 22 goals on a five-game winning streak, the Sharks have been held to eight in a 2-1-1 stretch.
The Flames (29-25-7) managed that total in their last game, an 8-1 victory Saturday at Edmonton.
"It’s been a challenge for us to produce offense this year," said Mike Cammalleri, who had a goal and two assists to give him eight goals and five assists on a seven-game point streak. "It’s nice to see pucks go in like they did. You don’t expect to score eight goals every night, but it’s nice to get that feeling where you feel like the puck is going to go in the net for us."
Calgary has 28 goals in six games, three of which came from Curtis Glencross against the Oilers, while Matt Stajan had a goal and three assists.
"What a great game," said Flames coach Bob Hartley, whose team lost 6-5 at home to Nashville on Friday. "We wanted to redeem ourselves from (Friday) night’s game. I could see that the boys were not very impressed with the performance from last night. We just worked very simple, we were very effective and we scored some great goals."
In addition to the offense, the Flames also got their No. 1 goalie back. Karri Ramo played for the first time since Feb. 1 due to a sprained right MCL and made 24 saves. He picked up where he left off before the injury and is 3-0-0 with a 0.75 GAA and .971 save percentage in his last four games, which includes a 27-save effort against San Jose.
The Sharks have won three of four against the Flames this season, though the last meeting ended in a 4-1 Flames win in Calgary on Jan. 30. Jiri Hudler had a goal and an assist for the Flames, giving him three goals in the season series.
Niemi sat that one out but has won his last four starts against Calgary.