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Flames secure postseason play for just 2nd time in eight seasons

CALGARY, Alberta -- Brian Elliott had another stellar game and helped the Calgary Flames secure their second trip to the playoffs in eight seasons.

Elliott stopped 36 saves to improve to 14-2 in his last 16 starts, Matt Stajan got his first goal in 24 games during Calgary's three-goal second period, and the Flames beat the San Jose Sharks 5-2 Friday night.

"He was fantastic. He was the reason we got these two points tonight," Flames coach Glen Gulutzan said of Elliott.

Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, Alex Chiasson and Sam Bennett also scored for Calgary, which won three out of the four meetings this season against San Jose.

Acquired from the Blues in June, Elliott struggled to begin the year but has been on a roll lately.

Elliott was especially sharp in a sloppy first period by Calgary, which was charged with nine giveaways, outshot 12-7 and short-handed twice, yet still emerged with a 1-0 lead.

"Ever since I came here, (playoffs) was the goal," the 31-year-old Elliott said. "I was fortunate enough in St. Louis to be there five years in a row. I know how fun, how meaningful and how much it brings to the city to be in the playoffs. This is a big accomplishment."

With the boisterous sell-out crowd of 19,289 already on their feet in a standing ovation, Bennett sent the fans and the players into a frenzy with an empty-net goal to complete the scoring.

"When Bennie came out of the box and got the empty netter, I watched all the guys stand up and start hugging each other when it went in," Gulutzan said. "Special moment there, the guys were truly excited."

After going two rounds in 2015 under coach Bob Hartley, the Flames had a disappointing season last year and finished 26th overall. Hartley was fired after the season and replaced by Gulutzan.

Things didn't start off very well for Gulutzan as Calgary was 5-10-1 in mid-November and had the NHL's worst winning percentage. But since that point, they've been one of the league's best teams.

"Those guys, they pushed themselves there," Gulutzan said. "I've never been more proud of a group. From the adversity that we had early on and just sticking with it. In my 17, 18 years coaching, just a fantastic group of guys and very proud of what they've accomplished."

The Flames pulled one point behind the third-place Sharks in the Pacific Division with four games remaining for each team, including a matchup in the season finale at San Jose.

Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Melker Karlsson scored for the Sharks, who have lost eight of their last nine. Martin Jones gave up four goals on 22 shots before he was replaced by Aaron Dell to start the third period. Dell stopped all 12 shots he faced.

"A lot of us are getting chances. We're not going out there with our sticks upside down and not working and packing it in. That's not the case here," Sharks defenseman Brent Burns said. "We've just got to try to stay positive, work through it and help each other."

Elliott's best stop came in the third period. Immediately after Karlsson pulled the Flames to 4-2 with seven minutes remaining, Elliott whipped out his glove to rob Kevin Labanc from 25 feet out.

"Right now, we're not scoring, which compounds it and we're not getting the right saves either at the right times," Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said. "When you're not getting a goal and you're not getting a save at the other end, that's the kind of scores that you get."

Game notes
This is just the second time in 25 seasons both Calgary and Edmonton have made the playoffs in the same season. The other was 2007, the Oilers' last appearance in the postseason. ... Sharks scratches included forwards Joel Ward and Joonas Donskoi, who were replaced upfront by Marcus Sorensen and Labanc.

UP NEXT

Sharks: At Vancouver on Sunday to open a home-and-home set.

Flames: Host Anaheim on Sunday before finishing the regular season with three road games.

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Johnny Gaudreau drops a great pass to Sam Bennett who returns it to Gaudreau in front of the net for the brilliant combination in the Flames' 5-2 win over the Sharks.

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