Flames beat Sharks to clinch playoff spot

Flames beat Sharks to clinch playoff spot

CALGARY — Matt Stajan’s first goal in 24 games was part of a three-goal second period as the Calgary Flames clinched a playoff spot Friday night with a 5-2 victory over the San Jose Sharks.

Less than five minutes after San Jose cut its deficit to 2-1, Michael Stone’s slap shot hit Martin Jones in the shoulder and popped into the slot where the rebound was swatted in by Stajan for his sixth goal of the season.

It’s just the second trip to the playoffs in eight seasons for Calgary. After going two rounds in 2015 under coach Bob Hartley, the Flames had a disappointing season last year and finished 26th overall. Hartley was fired after the season and replaced by Glen Gulutzan.

Things didn’t start off very well for Gulutzan as Calgary was 5-10-1 in mid-November and had the NHL’s worst winning percentage. But since that point, they’ve been one of the league’s best teams.

Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, Alex Chiasson and Sam Bennett, into an empty net, also scored for Calgary (44-30-4), which has won three out of the four meetings this season between the two teams.

The victory pulls the Flames to within one point of the third-place Sharks in the Pacific Division. Each has four games remaining including a showdown with each other at the SAP Center on the final night of the season.

Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Melker Karlsson scored for San Jose (43-28-7), which has lost eight of its last nine. Next up for the slumping Sharks is a back-to-back set with the Vancouver Canucks.

Making 36 stops to improve to 14-2-0 in his last 16 starts was Brian Elliott, who continues to impress.

The 31-year-old was especially sharp in a sloppy first period for the home team as Calgary was charged with nine giveaways, was outshot 12-7, was shorthanded twice, yet still emerged with a 1-0 lead.

Elliott’s best stop came in the third period. Immediately after Karlsson made it 4-2 Calgary seven minutes remaining, Elliott whipped out his glove to rob Kevin Labanc from 25 feet out. That stop drew boisterous cheers of “Moooose” from the home fans as they shouted his nickname.

Jones stopped 18-of-22 shots through two periods before getting replaced by Aaron Dell to start the third.

Jones has lost five of his last six starts and has an .856 save percentage over that span.

Notes: This is just the second time in 25 seasons both Calgary and Edmonton have made the playoffs in the same season. The other year was 2006-07, the Oilers last appearance in the post-season… Sharks scratches included forwards Joel Ward and Joonas Donskoi, who were replaced upfront by Marcus Sorensen and Labanc.

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