CALGARY – Throughout the first half, the Sharks have avoided giving backup goalie Aaron Dell any overly difficult starts. His first five all came against Metropolitan Division teams that aren’t considered Stanley Cup contenders.
They made it especially hard on him Wednesday night in Calgary, though. Not only was he thrown into the middle of a key division battle, the Sharks coaching staff apparently screwed up the roster sheet before puck drop, scratching Mirco Mueller instead of Paul Martin, who was likely suffering from the effects of a blocking a shot on Tuesday in Edmonton.
Mueller lasted just 6:36 into the first period before the officials huddled together and realized that the defenseman was ineligible to play. San Jose was down to five defensemen for the rest of the night, including Tim Heed, a rookie making his NHL debut.
Whether that had an affect on the game is up for debate, but Dell allowed a bad angle shot by Dougie Hamilton to get through his five hole with 2:19 to go in regulation. The Flames won, 3-2.
Dell made a stop on Matthew Tkachuk moments prior to Hamilton finding the puck, but the Flames defenseman managed to pot his seventh of the season on a shot from along the wall.
The Sharks’ split their two-game road trip through Alberta, beating the Oilers on Tuesday. They are 4-3 in the second half of back-to-backs.
The Flames improved to 5-3-0 since the Christmas break, and remain in fourth place in the Pacific.
Prior to Hamilton’s goal, Mikkel Boedker was awarded a penalty shot with 5:27 to go, when T.J. Brodie hooked him on a breakaway. The winger, who recorded a hat trick on Tuesday in Edmonton, was denied by Chad Johnson while trying to slip it through the goalie’s five hole.
Boedker had one more chance on a breakaway with eight seconds left, but Johnson turned that aside, as well.
The Sharks took leads of 1-0 and 2-1, but Calgary responded each time to knot the score at 2-2 at the end of the second period.
Logan Couture opened the scoring on the power play. He got the blade of his stick on a Brent Burns puck from the point, redirecting it through Johnson at 9:40 of the first.
The Flames tied it on a Michael Frolik rebound goal at 11:22, but Burns made it 2-1 on a wrist shot that made its way through traffic at 16:06.
Calgary got the only goal of the second period, and it came on a late power play. Brenden Dillon went off for interference, which led to Tkachuk tipping a Mikael Backund shot past Dell at 19:28.
The Sharks and Flames split their first two games, both at SAP Center. They don’t meet again until March 31 at the Saddledome.
San Jose scored just its sixth road power play goal in the last 20 games, finishing 1-for-2. The Sharks brought a 5-for-56 cold streak on the road into the Saddledome.
Calgary also went 1-for-2, including a late advantage with just 38 seconds to go. The Sharks have been shorthanded just five times in the last three games, going 4-for-5.
Dell, who hails from nearly Airdrie, Alberta, had a large contingent of friends and family at the game. He allowed three goals on 28 shots, and fell to 4-2-0 on the season.
On one sequence midway through the the third period, and after not seeing any rubber in the frame up to that point, he made three saves on Matt Stajan, Tkachuk and Garnet Hathaway to keep it a 2-2 game.
Johnson got the win with 25 saves, including the two clutch late ones on Boedker.
Heed, who has been on recall for the past three games, skated mostly with Dillon. He saw time on the second power play unit, too.
Martin missed his first game of the season. It’s not likely that whatever injury he’s dealing with is serious, as he took warmups.
Flames forward Michael Ferland was unable to finish the game due to an injury in the second period.
The Sharks return home to play the Blues on Saturday, in what will be St. Louis’ first appearance at SAP Center since last year’s Western Conference Final. The Blues beat the Sharks on Nov. 17 at Scottrade Center, 3-2.
They remain home for a rare matinee game on Monday, Martin Luther King Day, against Winnipeg.