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Flames propel up in tight West race

by Aaron Vickers / Calgary Flames

At the end, I thought it was a really solid effort, one of the best games I thought we played over 60 minutes. We didn’t give them too much. I think we deserved the win. You could see we really wanted to win tonight.Jonas Hiller

CALGARY, AB -- The Calgary Flames managed to jump the Sharks.

In what goaltender Jonas Hiller called one of their most complete effort of the season, the Flames managed to move from the second wild-card position in the Western Conference into second in the Pacific Division thanks to a 3-1 win against the San Jose Sharks at Scotiabank Saddledome on Wednesday.

“At the end, I thought it was a really solid effort, one of the best games I thought we played over 60 minutes,” said Hiller, who made 28 saves for his third straight win. “We didn’t give them too much. I think we deserved the win. You could see we really wanted to win tonight.

“I thought we were ready right off the bat. A lot of games we’ve kind of fell behind and it took us a little bit to get in the game. We knew San Jose is a great team, a really skilled team. We were right on them. We were playing hard. We were doing everything to play a solid period right off the bat. At the end we played a solid 60 minutes.”

The two teams played to a draw in a scoreless first period.

Goals from Kris Russell, his first of the season, Jiri Hudler and Mason Raymond to pace the Flames to a 3-0 lead after 40 minutes.

Calgary improved to 13-0-0 when taking a lead into a third period with the only blemish coming by way of San Jose forward John Scott.

“The last few games we've had a slower start, but we were good the whole 60 minutes,” Russell said. “Even after we let in that goal, we really came out the next few shifts and that's a good sign.”

The Flames are 4-1-0 on a six-game homestand that ends Friday against the Pittsburgh Penguins and 8-2-0 over their past 10 outings. Calgary has scored 30 goals during the stretch.

They’ve come from 15 different players.

“I think contributions from everybody, that's the big thing,” Raymond said. “When your goaltending is very strong, when your getting contributions from your D, you're getting contributions from all your lines, special teams has been exceptionally good ... I think that's a good recipe for winning.”

Winning has placed them firmly in the thick of the chase in the West.

But they aren't intimidated with the challenge by any stretch.

“I think a big part of it is that we believe we can win,” Raymond said. “When you're going out every night and working your butt off and doing the right things, I think it gives you a good chance to win.

“We're fighting for spots, especially wit those guys. Every game, every point, whether it's the start of the year or now, are important. But especially here coming down the stretch.”

Though Calgary currently sits planted in a playoff position, there’s no resting on laurels. The West is too tight.

The Flames and Sharks both have 61 points with Calgary holding the tie-breaker. The Vancouver Canucks trial by just two points but hold three games in hand.

The Winnipeg Jets also have 61 points and find themselves holding the first wild-card position. The Colorado Avalanche are also within striking distance with 55 points. The Minnesota Wild, Dallas Stars and Los Angeles Kings all have 54.

Calgary’s ready to face that challenge head on.

“Everything is so tight together,” Hiller said. “Even last night we ended up being third in the division to the last wild-card spot. The further up you can move the better, especially against a team in the West. They’re four-point games and the more you win the further up you get. We won’t be able to win every game until the end of the year -- that’s got to be the goal -- but we’ve got to be ready.

“Once you lose one, you’ve got to make sure you get right back on the winning side of things. Things are so tight together. We have the goal to be in the playoffs and the more games we win the better chance we have.”

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