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No. 6 Calgary scores early, then often

5/12/2004

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) -- Marcus Nilson's shot would have made a
pinball wizard proud.

The shot hit Scott Hannan's leg, ricocheted off Jason Marshall's
skate and caromed into the San Jose Sharks' net just 20 seconds
after the opening faceoff.

The goal tilted the Western Conference finals toward the Calgary Flames. They followed that bit of pure luck with another showcase of tremendous skill -- and now they're halfway to their first Stanley Cup finals in 15 years.

Linemates Nilson, Shean Donovan and Ville Nieminen had a
goal and an assist apiece as the Flames remained kings of the playoff
road with a 4-1 victory over the Sharks in Game 2 Tuesday night.

Nilson matched the fastest goal in Calgary's postseason history,
but the resulting blow to the Sharks' psyche was even more
important. The accidental goal put San Jose in a hole it never
escaped.

"It's tough to come back from something like that," Nilson
said. "But we did the hard work to back it up, too. We earned the
win."

Donovan scored 10 minutes after Nilson's goal, and Nieminen and
captain Jarome Iginla clinched the victory with third-period goals
44 seconds apart. That sent the sixth-seeded Flames back home with
an improbable 2-0 series lead over the Pacific Division champions.

"We'd be lying if we said this is what we expected, but it's a
tremendous bonus," center Craig Conroy said. "This is definitely
the most special season I've had, and it just seems like anything
can happen now."

Game 3 is Thursday night at the Saddledome, where the Flames are
just 3-3 in the playoffs. But thanks to a 7-2 road record that
includes three straight wins, they have a great shot at their
first Cup finals since 1989, when they won the franchise's only
championship.

Miikka Kiprusoff followed his 49-save performance in the opener
with just 17 saves, including a handful of fine stops in the final
minutes. With a fast start, puck possession and relentless
forechecking -- three of San Jose's hallmarks -- Calgary shocked the
sold-out Shark Tank into silence.

"I know from being on the other side of it, you get scored on
in the first minute, it's hard," Calgary coach Darryl Sutter said.
"Then you get another one, and it's not that far removed from
where they were down 2-0 in Game 1. It trickles back in."

Alyn McCauley scored for the Sharks, who lost consecutive games
for just the second time since early March. After starting the
playoffs with seven wins in eight games, San Jose has lost four of
its last five, including three straight at home. Its first trip to
the conference finals has been humiliating so far.

"We've dug a heck of a hole for ourselves, but it's not
impossible to get out," said Sharks coach Ron Wilson, who will
consider lineup changes for Game 3. "We have to recapture the
style of play that made us successful in the first two rounds.
Hopefully it will be easier to calm the situation down on the
road."

Evgeni Nabokov seemed as off-kilter as his teammates, making 16
saves as the Sharks lost in regulation for just the second time in
the playoffs.

The Flames scored two goals on their first three shots,
immediately putting the Sharks on their heels. San Jose was the
NHL's fastest-starting team in the regular season, leading the
league in first-period goal differential. But Calgary was all over
the Sharks in Game 2.

"We didn't do a lot of things we usually do, and they were
ready to play," said San Jose defenseman Brad Stuart, a minus-2
while playing a terrible game. "We've chosen to make it tough on
ourselves. We have to get back into it the hard way."

Donovan, a former Sharks forward, got his fourth goal of the
playoffs on a breakaway. The Flames' second line was a flurry of
activity all night, chasing the puck with a fervor usually shown by
the Sharks.

San Jose controlled most of the third period, but the Flames
capitalized on two late defensive breakdowns for goals by Nieminen
and Iginla, who scored on Nabokov for the first time in 14 games
against the San Jose netminder.

Sharks captain Patrick Marleau went scoreless in his fifth
straight game. He still leads with seven playoff goals, but has
vanished into another one of the funks that have defined his
career.

Sharks defenseman Kyle McLaren was a last-minute scratch with an
upper-body injury. San Jose used rookie defensemen Rob Davison and
Tom Preissing in his place -- and Davison picked up his first NHL
playoff point with an assist on McCauley's goal.

Game notes
Nilson's goal was the fastest by a San Jose playoff opponent. It beat the mark of 43 seconds set by Calgary's Paul Kruse exactly nine years ago. ... Calgary's Joe Mullen scored 20 seconds into a playoff game against St. Louis in 1986. ... Nils Ekman, the Sharks' second-leading scorer with 55 points in the regular season, got just his second point of the playoffs with an assist on McCauley's goal.