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Michalek and Bell strike quickly to lead Sharks to 4-3 win over Flames

The Canadian Press
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San Jose Sharks defenceman Christian Ehrhoff, of Germany, fights for the puck against Calgary Flames left wing Marcus Nilson, of Sweden, in the first period of an NHL hockey game in San Jose, Calif., Thursday, April 5, 2007. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez) Author: The Hockey News

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Michalek and Bell strike quickly to lead Sharks to 4-3 win over Flames

The Canadian Press
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"The way we looked at it was like a series," Iginla said after the Flames's 4-3 loss to the San Jose Sharks on Thursday night. "We lost the first two games and we have the a chance to go home and clinch it. It's all about winning one game. The whole season comes down to this."

Iginla scored twice and Kristian Huselius added a goal for the Flames, who missed a chance to clinch the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

Instead, the Flames let Colorado stay alive. The Avalannche beat Vancouver earlier in the evening.

"They need the points right now," Sharks forward Joe Thornton said. "They are a desperate team right now and those are tough teams to beat. They played well and they came back in the game but we were just too much for them."

The Avalanche drew within three points of Calgary, and have two games remaining - including their season finale against the Flames in Denver on Sunday. Calgary hosts Edmonton on Saturday.

Milan Michalek and Mark Bell scored in a span of one minute, 40 seconds in the second period to help the Sharks to win. Mike Grier and Jonathan Cheechoo scored for the Sharks in the final period.

Less than three minutes into the third period, Grier scored his 11th career goal against the Flames - his most against any team. Cheechoo scored an insurance goal three minutes later. It was his 11th goal in the last eight games.

The Sharks solidified their hold on the fifth spot in the playoffs and set a franchise record with 106 points. San Jose reached the milestone with its fifth straight victory.

The Sharks are 13-1-2 in their last 16 games, while the Flames lost for just the second time in eight games and saw their four-game road winning streak end.

"We expected them to come at us hard," Sharks coach Ron Wilson said. "We came out on top when it came to physicality. That's the type of game I want our young guys to experience right now. If we want to win the cup those are the type of games to expect in the Western Conference."

After winning its game against St. Louis, Nashville remained in control of fourth place in the playoff picture. The Sharks are in control of fifth and would begin the playoffs on the road against Predators.

If Nashville should lose its final game and Sharks win, San Jose would finish fourth because it holds the tiebreaker. San Jose holds a three-point lead over sixth-place Dallas. The Stars have two games remaining while Sharks have one.

San Jose dominated action in the first period but couldn't break through against Flames goalie Miikka Kiprusoff.

Michalek gave the Sharks a 1-0 lead eight minutes into the second period, aided by Thornton's 89th assist. He added his 90th on Cheechoo's goal.

"I have had a lot of good players to pass the puck to, that is all that means," Thornton said. " Just playing with good players. Giving it to Cheech and to Milan and other guys."

Thornton joined Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemeiuex as the only players in NHL history with back-to-back 90-assist seasons.

"It is flattering," Thornton said. "You don't think about getting 90 assists per year and it just sort of comes and you have to play with the right people but it is obviously flattering to be mentioned with those guys."

Bell caught Kiprusoff leaning the other way less than two minutes later to give the Sharks a 2-0 edge. Patrick Marleau took a shot from above the right faceoff circle and Bell was in position for the rebound.

"This was a tough loss because it was a huge game," Kiprusoff said. "He didn't bring our best. Now all we can do is win the next one."

After a timeout was called by Calgary's coach Jim Playfair, the Flames scored their first goal when Huselius scored his 34th goal of the season.

Notes: Flames D Robyn Regehr suffered a leg injury during the second period and didn't return. ... Calgary D Brad Stuart topped 300 career penalty minutes when he was assessed two minors. ... Wilson moved into 11th place for games coached with his 1,008th, breaking a tie with Jacques Demers. ... The Sharks began the day tied with Montreal for the best power-play percentage in the league at 22.6 per cent. ... Iginla has 15 goals and 25 assists in his last 25 games. ... Michalek has scored four of his 25 goals against the Flames. ... The Sharks' 42 shots matched a season high.

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Michalek and Bell strike quickly to lead Sharks to 4-3 win over Flames