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Kiprusoff nets fourth shutout of playoffs

5/18/2004

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) -- According to the schedule, the Calgary Flames are headed home with a chance to close out the Western Conference finals.

In reality, the Flames have made themselves at home everywhere
except Calgary in the playoffs -- and that's working out just fine
for the NHL's most surprising road warriors.

Jarome Iginla got things started with a short-handed goal and
Miikka Kiprusoff got his fourth shutout of the playoffs as the
Flames beat the San Jose Sharks 3-0 Monday night in Game 5 to take
a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series.

With their eighth road victory of the postseason, the Flames are
closing in on the NHL record of 10 road playoff wins, set by the
Devils in 1995 and matched by New Jersey in 2000. What's more, they're doing it
in style -- dominating the Sharks for the second straight time in
San Jose while rebounding from consecutive losses in Calgary.

Maybe the Flames' white jerseys just fit better. Maybe they burn
boos for fuel. Maybe they love the silence of a building full of
disheartened fans.

For whatever reason, the Flames are thoroughly enjoying the
comforts of road.

"It's definitely different, what we're doing this year," said
Iginla, who leads the NHL with 16 postseason points. "I can't put
my finger on why it's working out this way. I don't think anybody
can. It's kind of fun, though."

Game 6 is Wednesday night in Calgary, where the Sharks will face
elimination for the first time in the postseason. The Flames have
been in plenty of tight spots already this spring: All three of
their playoff series were tied after four games, and Calgary won
all three Game 5s.

The visiting team has won every game in this series.

Playing with confidence -- and yet another 2-0 first-period lead at
the sold-out Shark Tank -- the sixth-seeded Flames moved to the brink
of their first trip to the Stanley Cup finals since 1989, when they
won the franchise's only championship. Calgary hopes to be Canada's
first representative in the finals since 1994.

Marcus Nilson also scored in the first period, and Iginla and
Craig Conroy scored unassisted goals resulting from inexcusable
mental lapses by the Sharks, who lost all the poise they showed in
their two victories at the Saddledome.

"Where that performance came from, I really have no idea,"
Sharks coach Ron Wilson said. "It wasn't one or two guys. It was
almost the whole team struggling. You have to give Calgary some
credit, but we really did a pretty good job of shooting ourselves
in the foot with some very elementary mistakes."

Evgeni Nabokov made 18 saves for the Sharks, who have lost four
straight home playoff games. The Sharks seemed confident after
a dominant 4-2 victory in Game 4 -- but 24 hours later, San Jose
fell behind early and never showed much life. The Sharks' fans
booed them off the ice after each of the final two periods.

"We didn't play hard, and I can't explain that," center
Vincent Damphousse said. "We've been battling the odds ever since
the beginning of the series, and we'll try to do it again. There's
a lot of things we can do better. We just have to keep winning road
games. That seems to be the trend."

Kiprusoff, pulled before the third period of Game 4, was barely
tested by the sleepwalking Sharks, who had only a handful of
scoring chances among their 19 shots.

"Things change fast here," Kiprusoff said. "It's never fun
when they pull you, but when I got pulled, I was already thinking
about today's game."

Iginla's NHL-leading ninth goal of the playoffs resulted from
two mental errors typical of the mistakes made by San Jose at home
in the last two weeks.

The Sharks were settling into their first power play when
Damphousse's slow pass along the blue line was intercepted by
Iginla. He outskated two Sharks to the opposite net and slid the
puck under Nabokov, who panicked and flopped on the ice while
trying to stop the postseason's leading scorer.

Nilson, named to the Swedish team for the World Cup of Hockey
earlier in the day, scored his second goal of the series on a
broken play two minutes later.

Conroy added his fifth goal of the postseason midway through the
second period when Sharks defenseman Kyle McLaren loafed after a
deflection. Conroy sped past him for a two-on-one with Iginla, then
beat Nabokov from the slot.

"Their top line played really well in our building [in Game 4],
so we said we've got to do the same thing in here," Conroy said.
"It feels a lot farther away than just one win. We know we've got
a lot of work to do."

Game notes
Flames C Stephane Yelle limped back to the bench with six
minutes left in the third period after blocking a San Jose shot
with his derriere. He later returned. ... "Hockey Night in
Canada" commentator Don Cherry wore an outlandish red wig during
the pregame show in tribute to Flames D Mike Commodore, whose bushy
hair and beard have made him a cult hero across Canada.