Flames clinch Western Conference with win against Sharks
Secure home-ice advantage through first three rounds of playoffsby Eric Gilmore / NHL.com Correspondent
SAN JOSE -- The Calgary Flames clinched first place in the Western Conference and Pacific Division with a 5-3 win against the San Jose Sharks at SAP Center on Sunday.
Calgary (49-23-7) moved eight points ahead of second-place San Jose in the Pacific with three regular-season games remaining for each team. The Flames, who did not qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season, won a division title for the first time 2005-06.
Calgary will open the playoffs against the second wild card from the West; the Colorado Avalanche hold a one-point lead on the Arizona Coyotes.
"We've had a good year, a good regular season, but we know the work lies ahead in the playoffs," Flames captain Mark Giordano said. "But we won't take this for granted. It's an accomplishment by our team to finish first in the West. It's not an easy thing to do."
[WATCH: All Flames vs. Sharks highlights]
San Jose (44-26-9) will finish second in the Pacific and have home-ice advantage against the third-place Vegas Golden Knights in the Western Conference First Round.
The Sharks, who defeated Vegas 4-3 in overtime on Saturday, are 1-7-1 in their past nine games and had a season-low 15 shots against the Flames.
"We have to set ourselves up for the playoffs and go in with a good feeling," Sharks forward Timo Meier said. "We have to find our game. It's like doing homework and getting ready for the final exams in the playoffs."
Mike Smith made 12 saves for Calgary, which has won eight of its past 11 games.
"Just a great feeling, somewhat of a sense of relief I guess, but also an excitement," Smith said. "This doesn't come around every year. It's hard to get to the very top.
"The Western Conference is a tough conference, and to get to where we are and to it with the guys we've done it with in here says a lot about this group and the resiliency of this group."
Video: #ThirstForTheCup: Flames clinch Western Conference
Aaron Dell made 25 saves for San Jose, which played again without injured captain Joe Pavelski (lower body) and defenseman Erik Karlsson (groin).
Pavelski hasn't played since March 16; Karlsson has been out since Feb. 26.
"I want to get healthy," Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said. "I want to get our team back, that's priority No. 1. We're missing some of our key people."
The Sharks took a 1-0 lead at 12:01 of the first on Meier's 30th goal of the season, but the Flames responded with three goals in 1:15 later in the period.
Video: CGY@SJS: Flames strike for three goals in 1:15
Sean Monahan tied it 1-1 on a wrist shot at 14:58 off a pass from Johnny Gaudreau for his 34th goal.
Mark Jankowski made it 2-1 at 15:29, and Dalton Prout extended Calgary's lead to 3-1 with his first goal of the season at 16:13.
"One goal doesn't define a game," said Flames coach Bill Peters, whose team won 6-1 against the Anaheim Ducks at Scotiabank Saddledome on Friday. "We gave up the first against Anaheim; OK, now they got one. That's going to happen. It used to be a big stat in the NHL; if you gave up the first goal, it's hard to win.
"But our mindset is, let's go out and play well. If they get one, let's squash the momentum and let's get back to work and away we go. That's what we did in the last game at home against Anaheim and that's what we did here against a real good team tonight."
The Flames made it 4-1 at 7:27 of the second period on Mikael Backlund's deflection.
Video: CGY@SJS: Backlund redirects puck in off defenseman
Logan Couture scored off a rush at 5:23 of the third period to make it 4-2, but Michael Frolik responded for the Flames at 8:25 to give them a 5-2 lead.
Kevin Labanc scored at 16:34 for the 5-3 final.
"It's huge," Monahan said of winning the West. "I've been here a long time now and it's tough enough to make it to the playoffs, so I think to do what we did is pretty special and it's something I'll always remember.
"We've got a lot of work of ahead of us, and as a group we know what we're in for."
They said it
"It's a group now that nobody wants to be the guy. Nobody wants to be the guy that lets anybody down. We know how to play, we know how hard it is and the commitment that it takes, and nobody wants to be that guy that drops the ball." -- Flames coach Bill Peters
"We're having a tough time breaking out of our zone right now. If you don't exit, you find the puck going into the net. We had seven, eight good minutes. We scored the goal, [but] the next thing you know its 3-1." -- Sharks forward Logan Couture
Need to know
Flames forward Sam Bennett (lower body) missed his fifth straight game. … Sharks forwards Melker Karlsson (lower body) and Lukas Radil each missed his second straight game.
Flames: At the Los Angeles Kings on Monday (10 p.m. ET; PRIME, SNW, NHL.TV)
Sharks: At the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday (10 p.m. ET; SNP, NBCSCA+, NHL.TV)
Video: Flames clinch top West seed with 5-3 defeat of Sharks