Thornton’s late winner lifts Sharks to 3-2 victory over Flames

CALGARY – Joe Thornton’s first goal of this year’s NHL playoffs was a big one.

Thornton scored the winner with just 9.4 seconds left in regulation in the San Jose Sharks’ 3-2 win over the Calgary Flames on Tuesday to deadlock their Western Conference quarter-final at 2-2. Thornton tipped Douglas Murray’s shot from the point past Flames goalie Miikka Kiprusoff to salvage a win in which the Sharks trailed twice.

Game 5 is Thursday in San Jose.

The Flames set a franchise low for shots on goal in a playoff game, mustering just 10 on Sharks goaltender Evgeni Nabokov. The previous low was 15.

Ryane Clowe scored his fourth of the series and Jonathan Cheechoo had his first for the Sharks.

Flames captain Jarome Iginla had a goal and an assist and Dion Phaneuf also scored.

Kiprusoff, who was pulled just three and a half minutes into Sunday’s Game 3 after giving up three goals, stopped 29 of 32 shots.

The Flames controlled the play in the opening period by scoring first, pressuring the Sharks in their own zone and taking time and space away from San Jose when they had the puck.

The Sharks began wresting some momentum back in the second with Clowe’s power-play goal at 10:54, before Phaneuf restored Calgary’s lead with 18:29.

Cheechoo deadlocked the game 2-2 at 15:06 of the third period with his first of the series. His sharp-angled shot found a hole between Kiprusoff’s shoulder and the crossbar.

In the second period, Iginla won a faceoff and sent the puck back to Phaneuf, who beat Nabokov on a shot from the point through traffic to give Calgary a 2-1 lead.

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Clowe tied the game 1-1 with a backhanded redirect of Patrick Marleau’s shot from the point.

Craig Conroy missed the net on a two-on-one with Alex Tanguay in the first two minutes of the game, but the Flames retained control of the puck off that play and Iginla scored on a broken give-and-go with Daymond Langkow.

Iginla whipped the puck across the front of Nabokov and over his stick at 3:19 on Calgary’s second shot of the game.

The Flames didn’t register another shot on goal the rest of the period and it would be almost 24 minutes before they had another.

Sharks winger Jody Shelley dug his stick into the back of Kiprusoff’s right leg while the Flames goalie was heading to the bench after a whistle late in the first. Kiprusoff dropped to his knees, but was unhurt. Shelley was penalized for roughing.

The 19,289 spectators, almost all of whom wore the Flames’ red jersey, were still pumped from Calgary’s come-from-behind win Sunday and started chanting 10 minutes before the opening faceoff.

Notes:(at) Sharks defenceman Christian Ehrhoff played his first game of the playoffs after missing the previous three with what the team called a lower body injury. The Sharks played seven defencemen . . . Sharks rookie forward Devin Setoguchi of Taber, Alta., appeared in his first career NHL playoff game . . . The Flames recalled goaltender Curtis McElhinney and forwards Brandon Prust, Grant Stevenson and David Van der Gulik, from the AHL’s Quad City Flames.