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DIVISION CHAMPS!

The Flames knocked off the Sharks 5-3 Sunday to clinch their first division title in 13 years

by RYAN DITTRICK @ryandittrick / CalgaryFlames.com

In a game like this, manufactured emotion had no place.

You had to feel it.

Want it.

Truly believe in the cause you're fighting for.

It was, after all, a night to make history.

With a win against the very team chasing them, the Flames would lock up their first division title in 13 years and secure the top seed in the Western Conference in the process.

Their previous two clinching scenarios - first, a berth in the spring dance, followed by the guarantee of home ice in the opening round - came on the heels of losses.

This they wanted to do on their terms.

Thanks to a 5-3 win over the San Jose Sharks on Sunday at the SAP Center, the Flames are the 2018-19 Pacific Division champions.

And what a way to do it.

 

>> RELATED: GAME HIGHLIGHTS
>> RELATED: PHOTO GALLERY
>> RELATED: INFOGRAPHIC

 

With one banner locked up, the Flames now have their scope set on at least one more before the season is out.

"It feels a lot better when you win your way into these positions," offered captain Mark Giordano, who had another in a long line of monster games with one assist, three hits, four blocks, five shot attempts and more than 24 minutes of ice time.

"We've had a good year, a good regular season, but we know the work that's ahead in the playoffs. But we won't take this for granted. It's an accomplishment to finish first in the West, it's not an easy thing to do.

"We'll enjoy it, but we'll get geared up for the playoffs now."

 

Video: CGY@SJS: Flames celebrate win, clinch top West seed

 

The victory moves Calgary's record to 49-23-7 on the year, making this talented Flames team the second-winningest club in franchise history next to the 1988-89 Cup-winning entry.

"It's a good accomplishment for our organization and for our players," said head coach Bill Peters, who later added that Calgary is the "best city" he's ever lived in and can't wait to see the Red Mile all dolled up in a week or so. "Our players really dug in. About a dozen games into the season, we really found a level of consistency that allowed us to get to this spot.

"We all know how hard it is, and the commitment it takes. And nobody wants to be that guy that drops the ball. We're all holding each other accountable on the bench, it's all positive. ... You do good things on a consistent basis and you end up where you are right now."

Timo Meier drew first blood for the Sharks off a turnover deep in Flames territory - the Swiss forward scooping up a loose puck at the right dot and firing it far side, just under the bar, to give the homeside a 1-0 lead.

The goal came at 12:01 and was part of a strong surge that forced the visitors back on their heels on back-to-back shifts early.

Mike Smith was otherwise tidy in the win, stopping 12 of 15 to improve his record to 23-15-2.

 

Video: Flames clinch top West seed with 5-3 defeat of Sharks

 

"It says a lot about the group in here," the goalie said. "The team's done an unbelievable job all year just sticking with it.

"Tonight was another instance. We fell behind early, and there was no give-up. It was more, 'Go get it.' … We know there's a bigger end goal, but definitely this is special and you forget this for as long as you live."

Soon after the opening tally, the game turned and the Flames took over with three quick strikes.

Less than 48 hours after breaking out with a colossal, four-point effort against Anaheim, Sean Monahan pulled the Flames even with a beauty of a goal, extending his career-high point total to 81 with his 34th of the
campaign.

Johnny Gaudreau made it all possible with a magnificent backhand pass through the legs of Justin Braun to set up the goalmouth tap-in. With another assist on Mikael Backlund's middle-frame tally, No. 13 is now only four points off the century mark with a trey left on the schedule.

Monahan, who struck pipe on a powerplay earlier in the frame, now has 20 points (6G, 14A) in his last 19 road games.

The Flames took their first lead at 15:29 when Mark Jankowski corralled a bouncing puck in the slot and quickly whipped it past Aaron Dell with a firm shot from the hash marks.

Linemates James Neal and Austin Czarnik picked up the helpers to give them points in back-to-back tilts.

 

Video: "We had a relentless mindset"

 

Dalton Prout rounded things out with his first as a Flame at 16:13, jumping up on the play and taking a great feed from Andrew Mangiapane before slipping it home on the backhand.

A rather emphatic celebration followed, with the big man dropping to one knee and swiping the ice, while letting out the most primal of roars.

Prout, who's appeared in only 17 games after sitting for most of the campaign as a healthy scratch, has been a consummate pro all year - lauded by his teammates for his work in the dressing room, no matter what the
situation.

The goals came only 1:15 apart.

 

Video: CGY@SJS: Flames strike for three goals in 1:15

 

"It's a good feeling in here because we know how much work has been put into it," Prout said. "We put it into words and to try and explain it as much as possible, but the teamwork, the camaraderie, the work ethic, holding each other accountable - it all goes into winning. Each one of those elements is very important.

"It starts with the leadership, coaches, management. We set a standard here that ultimately we executed and we're conference champs of the season, so it feels really good."

Just short of the midway mark of the second period, the Flames opened up a 4-1 lead courtesy of Backlund and the double deflection in front. Noah Hanifin lobbed a sharp-angle shot toward the net, and after the puck first pinballed off the pivot's right skate, it ricocheted again San Jose defenceman Joakim Ryan and past the helpless netminder for the Flames' fourth unanswered goal.

 

Video: "Guys were ready to go. I liked our composure"

 

Logan Couture got one back for the Sharks early in the third as he finished off a 3-on-2 with Meier and Tomas Hertl, but Michael Frolik restored the visitors' three-goal edge before the 10-minute mark, sniping home his 16th of the year off a great feed from Mark Giordano from the high slot.

Kevin Labanc rounded out the scoring with a late pop, but the Flames cruised to the finish line in a 5-3 final.

"It was quiet and calm here before the game, which I really liked," Giordano said. "Guys were ready to go.

"I liked our composure. We played well throughout the game. They got the first one and usually in this building you can lose it for a bit if they get the momentum, but I thought we did a good job responding.

"We know it's going to ramp up. The next week, week-and-a-half, we'll prepare for that, but there's nothing like the intensity that's going to come in the playoffs and we know that.

"We'll try to get our game to where it needs to be, to the top."

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