SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP)—Jeremy Roenick thought Ron Wilson’s text message was an electronic fortune cookie.
The San Jose Sharks coach was counting on Roenick for big things in Game 7, he typed. The aging center should expect to be a hero.
Roenick made his coach’s prediction come true with one spectacular play after another Tuesday night, also making sure the vibrant veteran’s return from semiretirement will last longer than one playoff round.
Roenick had two goals and two assists, including the tying and go-ahead scores midway through the Sharks’ four-goal second period Tuesday night in a 5-3 victory over the Calgary Flames in Game 7, finishing their opening-round playoff series.
“I didn’t come back to have a feeling this good,” said Roenick, who was forcibly rested by Wilson in the Sharks’ loss in Game 6. “I didn’t expect to feel this good, this early. To contribute like that, I don’t want to say it’s a surprise, but it’s just so great.”
Evgeni Nabokov made 19 saves for second-seeded San Jose in front of a deafening crowd at the first Game 7 in Shark Tank history. After the Sharks fell behind 2-1 early in the second period, San Jose’s formidable talent finally overwhelmed the Flames with four goals in less than nine minutes, chasing goalie Miikka Kiprusoff.
Roenick led the way, adding two goals to his four previous scores in six career appearances in a Game 7. After 18 NHL seasons, Roenick doesn’t flinch under pressure—but in the waning years of a career without a Stanley Cup title so far, he also doesn’t want to waste any more time.
“I might be 38 years old, but now I feel like I’m 19,” Roenick said. “You don’t like to have the career that I’ve had and sit out a potential clinching (Game 6). It was nice that I could come back and contribute in this way.”
The Sharks earned their fourth straight trip to the second round, where they’ll face the Pacific Division-rival Dallas Stars.
Roenick tied the franchise record for points in a playoff game, sparking the Sharks offense with his typically relentless play in the decisive second period. Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski and rookie Devin Setoguchi also scored for the Sharks, who took 41 shots while thoroughly controlling most of the final two periods.
The win capped an exhausting two weeks for the Sharks, who fell behind 2-1 in the series before rallying for two late goals to steal Game 4. San Jose then gave its worst effort of the series in Game 6, leaving many wondering whether the Sharks had the grit necessary to survive a physical opponent.
“For all the people who critique Joe or Patty (Marleau) or the whole organization, tonight was as dominant as a team could be in a seventh game,” Wilson said. “Our team played its best hockey when it mattered most.”
“We came into this game believing we were going to win,” Iginla said. “We were up 2-1 in the second period, and we didn’t sustain it and didn’t stay after them. In a game like that, it’s not something we’d believe was going to happen, so it’s definitely numbing to be out and have to watch them after a good series.”
Kiprusoff couldn’t stop the franchise that groomed him for NHL stardom, allowing four goals on 30 shots before Curtis Joseph replaced him late in the second period. San Jose put its formidable depth to full use, rolling four talented lines while racking up 35 shots in the first two periods.
“I don’t think it was controversial,” said Calgary coach Mike Keenan, who coached Roenick in Chicago way back when both men had more hair. “Kipper didn’t play very well. He just wasn’t on tonight. They started the game with a strong push, and our team didn’t respond very well. Especially when we had a 2-1 lead, we should have kicked it up a notch. We ignited their resolve, and they really turned it up, took control from there.”
The Flames pulled Joseph for most of the final 3 1/2 minutes, but couldn’t add to Primeau’s goal early in the third period. They haven’t won a playoff series since 2004, when they beat the Sharks in the Western Conference finals on the way to a seven-game Stanley Cup finals loss to Tampa Bay.
San Jose’s power play was an awful 4-for-27 in the series’ first six games, but Thornton scored his second goal of the series on a pass from Jonathan Cheechoo midway through the first period. Iginla got his own power-play score just 86 seconds later, and Nolan put the Flames ahead early in the second period when defenseman Doug Murray botched his assignment, giving a breakaway to the former Sharks captain.
The Shark Tank was morbidly silent until San Jose’s fourth line broke through. Roenick’s long, low shot slipped past Setoguchi’s screen and through Kiprusoff’s legs—and Roenick then put the Sharks ahead exactly 3 minutes later, slipping through Calgary’s penalty-killers and wiring a remarkable shot into the top corner of the net.
When Pavelski added a rebound goal, the Flames yanked Kiprusoff—but Setoguchi scored 52 seconds later on Roenick’s setup.
Keenan coached his NHL-record 10th Game 7, while F Stephane Yelle participated in his 11th, most among active players. … D Adrian Aucoin had two assists for Calgary. … D Kyle McLaren missed his second straight game for San Jose with a groin injury. … Sharks LW Milan Michalek finished the seven-game series without a point.
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