SAN JOSE, Calif. – Jonas Hiller was more spectator than participant and was only concerned that Calgary had taken too many penalties in the third period. Then, he found himself on the ice in a thankless position.
His teammates couldn’t thank him enough afterward.
Juri Hudler scored the winning goal in the shootout, leading the Flames past the San Jose Sharks 6-5 on Thursday night, though it was Hiller who stole the spotlight.
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Calgary’s Karri Ramo stopped 29 of 34 shots before being helped off the ice with an apparent lower leg injury. Ramo was hit by Joonas Donskoi after being tripped by Mark Giordano with three minutes remaining in regulation. Hiller replaced Ramo and stopped all eight shots he faced.
“He’s been great for us all year,” Flames centre Joe Colborne said. “To step in like that, when you’re cold, and walk right into a 5-on-3 is not an easy task and he shut the door for us.”
Hiller saw the play that injured Ramo and the longer his teammate stayed down, he began to adopt a game mentality.
“The only good part is that nobody expects much from you,” Hiller said. “It helps to have a lot of games under my belt.”
Flames coach Bob Hartley simply said Hiller was the reason Calgary walked away with two points.
“He got us the win,” Hartley said. “Our best penalty kill was Hills coming right off the bench. It was three big minutes.”
After San Jose trailed 4-1 after one period, Donskoi and Dylan DeMelo scored early in the third period to give the Sharks a brief lead before Kris Russell tied it at 5 with just under 12 minutes left in regulation.
“That was quite a game. I don’t know where to start,” Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said. “We stuck with it and found a way to get a point. It’s too bad we didn’t take advantage of the 5-on-3.”
Hiller’s performance left the Sharks shaking their heads.
“Kudos to him,” Sharks centre Logan Couture said. “He stepped into a 5-on-3 and made unbelievable saves. He saved them a couple of points.”
Sam Bennett and Giordano scored within 1:06 of each other as the Flames scored four times in the first period. Sean Monahan and Mikeal Backlund also had goals for the Flames, who won their third straight while improving to 4-3-1 in their last eight road contests.
Tommy Wingels, Patrick Marleau and Couture also scored for the Sharks, who were coming off a 2-2 road trip. Alex Stalock saved 17 of 22 shots for the Sharks.
Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau, two of the three players — along with Lance Bouma — who were benched for Tuesday’s win over the Toronto Maple Leafs, were key figures in helping Calgary open with a big first period.
Bennett started it with a hustle play, intercepting a lazy cross-ice pass, skating in and beating Stalock just over four minutes into the game.
Giordano added a power-play goal just over a minute later, getting a deflection off Justin Braun’s skate that sent the puck over Stalock’s left shoulder.
The Sharks made it 2-1 when Wingels chipped it over Ramo’s shoulder following a face off.
Gaudreau picked up a loose puck in his own end and skated it into the Sharks zone before sending a back-handed pass to Hudler, who tipped it to a wide-open Monahan, who has seven points in his past four games, to give Calgary a 3-1 edge.
Backlund scored 50 seconds later to make it 4-1. From the side, he banked the puck off the far post and rattled it into the net.
Couture and Marleau each scored on the power play in the second period to bring the Sharks within a goal at 4-3. Couture fired a shot into the upper corner less than a minute in and Marleau redirected a pass from Joe Thornton, who has points in 22 of his last 24 games.
Donskoi tied it less than three minutes into the third period, converting on a pass from Couture.
DeMelo scored on a power play to give San Jose a 5-4 lead with 14:05 remaining to play. Just over two minutes later, Russell put back a rebound to tie it.
NOTES: Thornton was honoured as the Sharks Player of the Month for January after leading the team in assists (13) and points (15) and producing a 10-game point streak in the month. … The Sharks allowed four goals in a period for the first time this season. … Calgary G Jonas Hiller turns 34 on Friday. … Hudler recorded his 400th point with an assist in the first period. He has scored in eight of 10 games. … Couture has 26 points in 24 games against the Flames.