CALGARY - He waited a long time to get it, but Kris Russell's first goal of the season was an important one.
Russell's goal at 9:28 of the second was the first of three unanswered goals in the period as the Calgary Flames went on to a 3-1 victory over the San Jose Sharks on Wednesday.
"Obviously, I would have liked it to come a little quicker," said the 27-year-old, who took a pass from Paul Byron and blasted a shot that squeezed through the pads of Alex Stalock.
Averaging over 23 minutes a night in ice time playing alongside Dennis Wideman on the Flames second defence pairing, Russell — named an alternate captain over the summer — has been a pivotal part of Calgary's success.
"I'm so glad for Kris because he does so many things that are very valuable to this organization that don't necessarily show on the score sheet," said Calgary coach Bob Hartley.
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). The Sharks lost in regulation for the first time in their last five (3-1-1) games.
Scott said defensive mistakes cost them in the second period.
"We just didn't pick up guys. We were there but I think we got a little hungry on the puck and didn't look around and see guys around us and it cost us," he said. "You give them a couple inches and they're going to bury you."
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 own the tie-breaker.
"We're playing well," said Hartley. "Our veterans are certainly leading by example. The young players are bringing lots of intensity and energy and both combined together, we have a solid, hard-working team."
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.
"The character in this room shows when you go through something like that and you continue to keep trying to get better and keep improving and don't let that affect your season," said Russell.
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 Stalock.
In the West, there are eight teams within seven points of each other. San Jose centre Joe Pavelski says the rest of the season is going to be a dog fight.
"All the teams are right there, knocking on the door and playing hard. It's playoff-like atmospheres in these games and you have to win them, the points are big," said Pavelski.
Jonas Hiller had 28 saves to improve to 17-14-2. Stalock had 20 stops in falling to 5-6-1.
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.