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CLINCHED!

Flames punch their playoff ticket with 5-2 win over the Sharks

by TY PILSON @typilson / calgaryflames.com

They're in!

The Flames put an 'x' beside their name and punched their ticket to the NHL post-season soiree with a 5-2 victory over the San Jose Sharks at the Scotiabank Saddledome Friday night.

The Flames return to the hunt for Lord Stanley's mug for the first time since the 2014-15 season, falling short and missing the playoffs last year.

Coach Glen Gulutzan had said repeatedly the club wanted to control their own fate and seize a playoff berth with a victory rather than the other scenario which required an L.A. Kings loss.

Just two nights after falling 4-1 to the Kings in their first opportunity to secure a playoff berth, the Flames rode a dominating second period in which they scored three goals to clinch on their terms.    

Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, Matt Stajan , Alex Chiasson and Sam Bennett scored for the Flames, while Brian Elliott made 36 saves between the pipes, earning the nod as the game's first star.

Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Melker Karlsson replied for the Sharks, who have now lost eight of their last nine games.

Johnny Hockey put on a show on the game's opening goal, crossing the blue-line and stickhandling in a phone booth surrounded by Sharks players, making a drop pass to Sam Bennett and then driving the net where he backhand tipped a return pass from Bennett past Sharks started Martin Jones.

The Flames led 1-0 after the first period but were outshot 12-7.

Monahan put the homeside up by a pair when he gathered up the rebound of a Kris Versteeg powerplay point shot just outside the blue paint and snapped it into the net 3:42 in the second stanza.

Calgary's powerplay had gone 0-6 in the loss to the Kings.

Vlasic got the Sharks on the board when Michael Haley fanned on a shot after taking a cross-ice pass but Vlasic was there to snag the loose puck and wristed it past Elliott at 8:25.

Stajan restored the two-goal cushion at the 12:38 mark of the second. After Jones made an ackward save with his left shoulder off a Michael Stone point blast, the puck hit the ice and slid out into the high slot where Stajan was Mr. Right-Place, Right-Time and put it in the back of the net with a quick shot before Jones had time to get back into position.

With less than three minutes to play in the frame, Chiasson swooped in from the left faceoff circle and took a pass from Versteeg who had set up shop behind the net and then backhanded a beautiful shot short side up and over Jones' shoulder.

Jones took a seat on the bench to start the third period, making way for backup Aaron Dell to take over in net.

Karlsson scored for the Sharks in the third but Bennett iced it with a late empty-netter.

NOTES: Flames D Dougie Hamilton scored the club's lone goal in Wednesday's loss to the Kings as he continues a milestone 2016-17 campaign. That goal was his 13th of the season and represents a new single-season high to go along with his new marks for assists (36), points (49), game-winning goals (5) and shots on goal (213). Hamilton now sits in the top-10 among NHL blueliners in goals, assists, points, game winners, and shots … Calgary has won 32 consecutive times when holding a lead after two periods. Calgary's only loss this season when leading after 40 minutes came on Oct. 15 when they still earned a point in a shootout loss - they are the only team in the NHL who have just a single loss when leading after the second frame … Flames captain Mark Giordano needs just one goal for 100 in his career.

UP NEXT: The Flames host Ryan Getzlaf and Pacific Division leading Anaheim Ducks for Fan Appreciation Night Sunday in the final game of the regular season at the 'Dome (7:30 p.m., Sportsnet1, SN960 The Fans).

 

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