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Russell scores first goal of season, Hiller makes 28 saves as Flames top Sharks @NHL

CALGARY - Kris Russell scored his first goal of the season and Jonas Hiller made 28 saves as the Calgary Flames defeated the San Jose Sharks 3-1 on Wednesday in a pivotal Pacific Division match-up.

Jiri Hudler and Mason Raymond also scored for Calgary (29-20-3). The Flames improve to 4-1-0 on a six-game homestand, which concludes Friday against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

John Scott scored for San Jose (27-18-7), which lost in regulation for the first time in their last five (3-1-1) games.

Calgary opened the scoring at 9:28 of the second period when Russell's blast from inside the blue-line was partially stopped by Antti Niemi but still squeaked through.

It was the first of three consecutive goals for the Flames, who opened up a 3-0 lead in the middle period.

The victory moves the Flames from the second wild card spot in the Western Conference all the way up to second place in the Pacific Division. Calgary is tied with San Jose in points and games played but the Flames own the tie-breaker.

The Flames also matched their season high of nine games above .500, which they were also at on Dec. 4, prior to going on an eight-game winless skid.

Calgary took a 2-0 lead at 11:55 of the second on the power play.

Johnny Gaudreau patiently carried the puck behind the San Jose net then centred it to Hudler for his 15th goal.

With less than two minutes left in the second, Raymond was set up perfectly by Joe Colborne and blasted a one-timer past Niemi.

The Sharks lone goal came when Scott banged in his second of the season 2:48 into the third.

San Jose had the territorial edge in the third but could not get any closer.

Hiller has given up only eight goals over the past five games. He improved his record to 17-14-2 on the season.

Niemi had 20 stops in falling to 21-12-6.

Notes: Mikael Backlund (illness) returned to the Flames line-up after missing one game. That bumped Sven Baertschi back to the press box... San Jose placed Tye McGinn on injured reserve and recalled Chris Tierney from Worcester (AHL)... Calgary has led after the first period only nine times, which is the fewest in the NHL... After narrowly escaping a serious injury Monday night when a skate nearly cut his wrist, Gaudreau wore wrist guards inside his gloves.

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