Make the San Jose Sharks the first beneficiaries of the blockbuster Theo Fleury trade.
Defenseman Bill Houlder scored twice as the Sharks, despite being outshot 30-14, escaped with a 2-1 victory Monday night over the Calgary Flames, who were playing their first game without their career scoring leaded.
Fleury was leading the Flames this season with 30 goals and 39 assists when he was traded Sunday to the Colorado Avalanche along with minor leaguer Chris Dingman for Rene Corbet, Wade Belak and future considerations.
The timing couldn't have been any better for the Sharks, who ended a seven-game winless streak.
"If you look at his stats against us, he's made the difference against us quite a few nights," said Houlder. "He is always on the top of his game against us, so it was nice to have that element out of the game."
With the game tied at 1, Houlder's go-ahead goal 16 seconds into the third period enabled eighth place San Jose to move four points ahead of Calgary for the final playoff spot in the tight Western Conference.
Houlder's wrist shot from the blue line seemed to catch goalie Ken Wregget off-guard, slipping through his pads.
Valeri Bure scored the only goal for Calgary, which finished 3-2-2 on a seven-game homestand. Calgary has lost two in a row after a seven-game unbeaten streak and now departs on a seven-game road trip.
Flames defenseman Phil Housley admitted it was "different" without Fleury in the lineupbut dismissed that as a reason for the loss.
| Steve Smith lands a punch on Sharks captain Owen Nolan. (AP)|
"I thought (Sharks goalie Mike) Vernon was the difference," said Housley. "We've still got a good team and we've just got to believe in ourselves."
The former Flames goaltender was sharp, especially in the second period, when he made 17 saves.
"They really blitzed us and had some good scoring chances, even without Theoren Fleury," Vernon said.
After falling behind 1-0 in the first period, the Flames dominated San Jose in spurts in the second, but couldn't score. Jeff Shantz had the best chance, but his spinaround shot from the faceoff circle was gloved by Vernon while the goalie was sitting on the ice.
"It's frustrating to lose a game like that; we deserved better," said Flames coach Brian Sutter. "We did enough good things to win the hockey game, but Vernon saved their bacon, plain and simple."
The enthusiasm from the Saddledome crowd of 16,358 was noticeably tempered as the Flames took the ice for the first time without Fleury, the most popular player in team history.
Even the Flames' highlight reel that plays on the scoreboard while the players step onto the ice had been redone and was missing the many Fleury goals that usually dominated its content.
Calgary was without the two players acquired from the Avalanche.
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