SAN JOSE - The Shark Tank has been a House of Horrors for the Flyers.
Last night, Dany Heatley - skating with the NHL's top scoring line with partners in crime Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton - bit the Flyers with a hat trick to give the Sharks a convincing 6-3 victory at HP Pavilion. That line combined for eight points last night in a game that was at times closer than the score indicated, with the Flyers trailing, only 4-3 with 7 minutes to play.
"We were in it for the most part," Flyers goaltender Ray Emery said. "But their big line got some chances and buried them."
The Sharks, in front of 17,562 rabid fans, are now one of two unbeaten team at home in regulation with a 7-0-2 record. The Flyers have not won in Silicon Valley now since Nov. 5, 1999.
But the Flyers' problems against San Jose aren't only in the Bay Area. The Flyers have not won in their last 11 straight attempts (0-7-4) against the Sharks.
Last night, the ice did not start out slanted. Danny Briere gave the Flyers the jump they needed only 9 minutes, 16 seconds into the first period when he batted an errant shot toward Evgeni Nabokov that somehow ended up in the net.
"I kind of missed my shot," Briere said. "The next thing I knew, it was in the net."
Every time the Flyers punched, the Sharks bit back - and harder.
Sharks fans love to hate Chris Pronger. The hatred stems from his days in the Western Conference with St. Louis, Edmonton and Anaheim, and the fans booed him every time he touched the puck.
He gave the fans a reason to cheer last night.
A skate-blade malfunction caused him to slip twice on his first shift of the game. But it got worse in the second period. Racing toward a puck near the Flyers' blue line, Pronger fell and left the puck waiting for Thornton.
With partner Matt Carle left out to dry, Thornton and Heatley weaved a pretty pattern and played give-and-go as Heatley beat Emery with a one-timer to give the Sharks a 2-1 lead in the second period.
"That's a goal they shouldn't get," Pronger said. "I had bad edges, and the ice conditions weren't very good. I thought I got the problem fixed, but it got a lot worse."
Before that Pronger gaffe, Manny Malhotra had the Flyers' number for the second time this season. After beating Brian Boucher for two goals in Philadelphia on Oct. 25, Malhotra scored his fourth goal of the season - giving him three against the Flyers alone - to knot the game at 1-1 on the power play with 4:49 to play in the first period. That puck bounced off Kimmo Timonen before going in.
Later, in the second period, Malhotra actually helped the Flyers even the score. After Jeff Carter and James van Riemsdyk swiped at the rebound from Claude Giroux' blast on net, Malhotra accidentally backhanded the puck into his own goal. His stick was not touched by another Flyer.
Van Riemsdyk originally was credited with the goal, but it was changed to Giroux after the replay reflected that neither van Riemsdyk nor Carter touched it. It was Giroux' first goal since Oct. 16 in Florida. That goal evened the game at 2-2.
Only 8 minutes after Giroux' game-tying goal, Marleau broke the Flyers' backs with a fluke goal with only 04.6 seconds remaining in the second period to give San Jose a 3-2 lead heading into the third.
Marleau's shot stood on the top of Emery's pad for a split second period it trickled into the goal behind him.
"I got a piece of it," Emery explained, "but it hit the post and then found its way in."
The Flyers never recovered. Giroux scored for the Flyers in the third period to make it 4-3 after another Heatley goal, but the damage was done.
Despite Giroux' second goal of the game, the Flyers were thwarted by an ill-timed high-sticking penalty by Ian Laperriere with only 7:24 to play. The Sharks were ahead at that point, 4-3. And Heatley didn't need any coaxing - like a man advantage - to score.
Ryan Clowe's goal off a helpless Oskars Bartulis, to give the Sharks that 6-3 lead, was just icing on the cake for San Jose.
"Our little mistakes let them continue to keep the lead," Pronger said. "It makes it very tough to mount an attack."
"There were bounces everywhere," Giroux said. "Sometimes it's a lucky bounce, sometimes it's a bad bounce."