CALGARY – Two weeks shy of his 36th birthday, Owen Nolan showed he’s still got plenty of game left in him.
Nolan’s 11th career hat-trick helped the Calgary Flames to their fourth straight victory, a 5-4 win over the San Jose Sharks on Wednesday. With the Flames leading 4-2 halfway through the third period, Nolan capped off his first three-goal night since Oct. 4, 1999. He broke to the net and neatly tucked an Alex Tanguay rebound behind Evgeni Nabokov from in-close.
“I was telling the guys in warmup I felt like I was 31 again,” said Nolan, who was signed last summer as an unrestricted free agent. “It was fun tonight.”
In addition to showing he still has good hands, the former Shark also showed he can still throw his fists, getting in a spirited fight with Mike Grier in the second period.
“Age is just a number, he always says that, and he showed tonight that he still has lots of game in him,” said Flames defenceman Dion Phaneuf.
Nolan’s third goal would be the eventual winner as San Jose got goals from Patrick Rissmiller and Jonathan Cheechoo 59 seconds apart in the game’s final two minutes to get the Sharks to within one.
“He (Nolan) was a real leader for us tonight. He was very vocal on the bench, very strong on the ice in all areas – offensively, killing penalties,” said Flames coach Mike Keenan. “He’s an experienced player who steps up in big games and tonight’s an example of his leadership.”
Wayne Primeau and Dion Phaneuf also scored for Calgary (26-17-8), which moved into a tie with the Anaheim Ducks for fifth spot in the Western Conference and remain one point back of the Northwest Division-leading Minnesota Wild.
Patrick Marleau and Tomas Plihal, with his first NHL goal, also scored for San Jose (28-16-7). The Sharks lost in regulation on the road for just the second time in the last 17 games (13-2-2).
Nolan’s second goal was a back-breaker for the Sharks. With San Jose on the power play and trying to cut into a 3-1 deficit, Nabokov skated out of his net to stop the puck near the corner, and in attempting to fire a pass up to Jeremy Roenick, he instead put the puck right on the stick of Nolan, who promptly slid the puck into the vacant net.
“I should have passed it to the closest guy but I saw JR up the middle and I guess I tried to do too much,” said Nabokov. “I was trying to put the puck right up the middle and I fanned on it and it goes in the back of the net.”
Nabokov was not the only Shark that made a mistake.
Afterwards, San Jose coach Ron Wilson was fuming about a pair of poor defensive plays early in the second period that led to goals 26 seconds apart by Nolan and Primeau that gave Calgary its first lead of the night.
“A couple bonehead plays and boom, boom, just like that, it goes from 1-0 for us to 2-1 for them and it took our energy away,” said Wilson. “They’re just silly elementary mistakes that maybe you make when you’re a little bit tired.”
San Jose heads home having splits its two games in Alberta and will kick off a six-game homestand Saturday versus Chicago.
“It’s getting too close to start giving away points, this one smarts a little bit,” said Roenick.
Calgary increased its lead to 3-1 at 17:35 of the second period when Phaneuf blasted a slapshot past Nabokov on a power-play. It was the first goal in 18 games for the Flames all-star defenceman.
Marleau gave San Jose the first-period lead scoring at 10:39. After his first shot attempt went off the leg of Phaneuf, Marleau got the puck again and snapped a shot inside the far goal post.
Notes: Iginla was held off the scoresheet again and has now gone eight games without a goal… Primeau’s goal was the first in 33 games dating back to March 6, 2007… Calgary D Anders Eriksson (shoulder) missed his second game… Newly acquired LW Jody Shelley did not dress for the Sharks… Former San Jose C Grant Stevenson (24 goals, 27 assists) is the top scorer for Calgary’s minor league affiliate in Quad City (AHL). Stevenson’s 47 games of NHL experience came with the Sharks in 2005-06… San Jose RW Mike Grier has 11 career goals against the Flames. He has scored no more than seven against anyone else.