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BOOM!

Gaudreau ties career high mark in goals with stellar blast against Isles

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames / CalgaryFlames.com

A la Rory McElroy trailing by a stroke on 18 tee, a wide-open fairway vista staring down at him and that TaylorMade M5 driver clutched in his eager mitts. 

Or Milos Raonic cranking a serve straight down the heart of the lush grass at Wimbledon, a hair's breadth inside the centre line, to take the game, set and match. 

Or a Nolan Ryan chin-music fastball.

Some serious, pitiless heat.

"Yeah," agreed Travis Hamonic, flashing a gap-toothed grin, "he really wired that."

A nine-game run witout a tally is now nothing more than a blurry, unsettling memory.

Uncorking a missile, Johnny Gaudreau cashed his first goal since Jan. 19th at Edmonton, No. 30 on the year to tie a career high.

It arrived via the powerplay, a mere eight seconds after NY Islanders defenceman Nick Leddy had been incarcerated for hooking. Face-off win by Sean Monahan, Mark Giordano setting the table for Gaudreau to unload.

"I was," confessed the wee conjurer, "just kinda trying to blast it through his chest. I was getting so many looks.

"It felt good."

On yet another evening of encouraging omens - more third-period offensive resilience, as suffocating a defensive effort as any in recent memory - Gaudreau's bazooka snipe ranked right up there.

Every team, naturally enough, wants its most potent attacking threat to be feeling it this time of year.

"Oh, I think he's always feeling it," countered Hamonic. "He's one of the best in the league, right? You can't expect him to score every night. He's not going to score 82 goals in a year. He's not going to score three points a night. However much he wants it and we want and he seems capable of it.

"No one is.

"All I know, that was a helluva shot."

The beebee, from inside the left face-off circle top shelf long-side, proved to be nothing more than a rumour to the league's stingiest goaltender, Thomas Greiss.

Vitally, it provided the Flames with a 4-2 third-period cushion, after they'd lost a 2-0 lead despite a wide, wide territorial advantage in the run of play.

"Tonight I probably could've found the net with two or three different looks I had. But that's just the way it's been going," sighed Gaudreau.

"When they're going in, they're going in.

"A guy took Gio away from the top shot. I had a pretty good lane there. It was a good play up top across the zone. I had a lot of time, a lot of space."

In an effort to ignite the offence, head coach Bill Peters flip-flopped one component from each of his two top lines, moving Matthew Tkachuk beside Gaudreau and Monahan, while putting Elias Lindholm together with Mikael Backlund and Micheal Frolik.

"Change lines," reasoned Gaudreau, "and sometimes you get a little spark, a little energy."

On the night, he finished with a game-high seven shots.

 

Video: "Was nice to get rewarded there, for our power play"

 

"There was some good things for sure," said Peters of his top six forwards mix-'n-match. "They had a lot of zone time. Chucky had a post early. I thought Lindy was real good again. I thought Backs was good again, Fro made a real good pass on the opening goal, Backs showing really good hands to finish in tight.

"It was good. It gives us some versatility and we can go back at any time; we don't need to practice.

"Johnny, good to see it go in for him. I thought he could've had a couple in the first, also."

By limiting the Isles to just seven shots over the opening 40 minutes and 18 on aggregate, the Flames equalled their win total of 37 from a year ago and stayed in their perch atop both the Pacific Division and Western Conference. 

"That's probably as good as we've played on the defensive side,'' critiqued Hamonic. "A lot of it started offensively. They forecheck a lot and wanted to get a lot of pucks behind us.

"Our forwards did a real good job of back-pressuring, so our D seemed to have a lot of time to stand in the neutral zone.

"That's a good team over there. They're playing extremely well. They're leading the Metro (division). We believe in our team, too. We're good defensively, too. And we're confident. When you're playing good teams like that, you've got to show up. And we did.

"There were a lot of good things tonight."

Not least of which was that Gaudreau poison dart from the left face-off circle.

"We knew it was going to happen,'' said Hamonic. "So did he.

"Whether he scores or not, he's threat not only every night but every time he's on the ice.

"Believe me. I know what it's like to play against him.

"And it sucks."

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