CALGARY — Joonas Donskoi made an immediate impact in his return to the San Jose line-up.
Donskoi scored the winner with 2:48 left in the third period and also had an assist to lead the Sharks to a 3-2 win over the Calgary Flames.
"He was awesome," exclaimed Sharks coach Peter DeBoer. "He was on the puck all night, hounding it, carrying it, making plays. I thought he was one of our better players."
On the deciding goal, Joe Thornton's shot was stopped, but with the puck lying loose between Mike Smith's pads, Donskoi was able to poke it over the line for his eighth goal.
"It's never easy to come back," said the Finn, who missed six games with a lower-body injury. "No matter how hard you practice, it's different to play a game. I'm super excited to be back."
Justin Braun began the sequence by knocking Johnny Gaudreau off the puck in the Sharks end after he tried to turn back up ice in an attempt to make a play. It resulted in a 3-on-2 for the Sharks.
"You can't turn back with three minutes left, you can't turn back, you have to play forward," said exasperated Flames coach, Glen Gulutzan. "You can't turn back. We needed to get points. We needed to take that into overtime and get the points. We're good at 3-on-3."
Given how it turned out, Gaudreau was asked if he would make that same play if he had a chance to do it over again.
"It's a tough play, I probably have to get it in deep, but that's the way it goes sometimes," said Gaudreau, who moved into a tie for third in league scoring with a goal.
Smith wasn't happy either.
"The last goal, it's got to be stopped. It's a stoppable puck, a controllable puck, so it's on me," said Smith. "We're in a hockey game tonight, another close one and in close ones, you can't have brain farts. It came back to bite us tonight."
Donskoi's linemates, Chris Tierney and Timo Meier, also had a goal and an assist each to round out the scoring for San Jose (17-10-3). The Sharks play again Friday night in Vancouver.
Michael Frolik and Gaudreau scored for Calgary (16-13-3). The Flames fall to 8-9-0 at home.
Trailing 2-1, the Flames tied it at 7:39 of the third period when Garnet Hathaway neatly set up Gaudreau on a 2-on-1.
It came after Gulutzan had shaken up Calgary's lines late in the second in an attempt to spark the offence, moving Gaudreau off the top unit and onto a line with Hathaway and rookie Mark Jankowski.
The Sharks had taken their first lead halfway through the second period on Tierney's eight goal of the season on a power play.
In his fourth NHL season, the 23-year-old is closing in on his career high of 11 set last year.
Power plays were a key storyline in the game with the Sharks going 1 for 3 while Calgary could not generate anything in going 0 for 3. That included squandering a 37 second two-man advantage early in the second period.
"It took a lot of zip out of us and I thought they got some juice out of those kills," said Gulutzan.
Aaron Dell, who grew up in Airdrie, a Calgary suburb, made 32 stops to improve to 6-3-1.
"It was awesome. It's great to have family and friends here to see it," said the 28-year-old, who won in Calgary for the first time.
Smith had 26 saves in defeat, falling to 13-10-3.
Notes: It was the first of four meetings between the two teams this season... Kris Versteeg (hip) missed his 10th game... Jaromir Jagr (lower body) is back skating but is still day-to-day. He's missed the last five games.... The Flames have led after one period only four times, the fewest in the league.