Sharks lose for eighth time in nine games as Flames clinch division

After an emotional win over Vegas on Saturday, the Sharks had little left 24 hours later against Calgary.

And thanks to a one-sided 5-3 victory by the visitors, San Jose watched the Flames celebrate a Pacific Division title and the top seed in Western Conference at SAP Center on Sunday.

With three games left and a six-point lead on the third-place Golden Knights in the division, the Sharks — held to a season-low 15 shots by the Flames — can set their sites on a first-round rematch against a Vegas team that ousted them in a six-game second-round matchup last spring.

And, with losses in eight of the last nine, clearly San Jose has work to do to get its game in order in addition to getting injured Joe Pavelski and Erik Karlsson back before the Stanley Cup playoffs start April 10 or 11.

All began well for the Sharks on Sunday as they scored the initial goal for the first time in six games. And that was after goalie Aaron Dell stood tall during an early Flames power play in addition to fending off a strong push by Calgary at even strength during the first 10 minutes.

Forward Timo Meier scored his 30th goal when he picked the top far corner at 12:01 of the first period off a feed from Joonas Donskoi, who was excellent with his stick on the entry and during a long cycle.

But San Jose’s lead did not last, as Calgary struck for three goals in the span of 75 seconds to take control.

First, Flames center Johnny Gaudreau slipped a check on the boards, drove behind the goal line and saucered a backhand pass from behind the goal line over Justin Braun’s stick to Sean Monahan, who one-timed his 34th goal at 14:58 of the first.

The tie-breaker came 31 seconds later when the Sharks got sloppy in their own end and the Flames made them pay. James Neal slipped a pass to Mark Jankowski, who scored his 12th of the season as only defenseman Brent Burns was back to defend two Calgary skaters.

Another defensive breakdown then allowed the Flames to cap the three-goal onslaught.

With defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic caught behind the play, Calgary capitalized as fourth-line forward Andrew Mangiapane fed defenseman Dalton Prout for his first goal in his 17th game of the season.

How frustrating of a game was it for the San Jose attack? A late Burns drive in the opening period ramped up a pair of sticks, struck and knocked off the mask of Calgary goalie Mike Smith before caroming off the crossbar and goalpost without crossing the goal line.

The Flames increased their lead to 4-1 at 7:27 of the second period when a double deflection went their way.

Mikael Backlund was credited with his 21st goal when, after the Calgary forward deflected the puck, it ricocheted off the stick of Sharks defenseman Joakim Ryan and past Dell.

After two failed power plays that mustered a combined two shots during four minutes, the Sharks cut their deficit to 4-2.

Logan Couture scored his 27th goal at 5:23 of the third by capping a tic-tac-toe passing play started by Tomas Hertl’s strong entry. Meier played the middle man, setting Couture up for a tap-in in close.

Calgary went back up by three at 8:25 when Michael Frolik one-timed a Mark Giordano feed past Dell.

Kevin Labanc capped the scoring at 16:34 with his 15th goal.

Ross McKeon is a freelance writer. Twitter: @rossmckeon

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