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FOWL PLAY

Gaudreau inches closer to milestone in loss to Ducks

by RYAN DITTRICK @ryandittrick / CalgaryFlames.com

You got the sense early in this one that Johnny Gaudreau could wait no longer.

The way he was wheeling, dealing, and pulling off all kinds of mind-bending party tricks - you know, the usual - it became clear Point No. 100 was well within reach.

Alas, a shot at the magnificent milestone will indeed come down to the regular-season finale.

At home.

Against the Oilers.

On Hockey Night in Canada.

Oh, baby.

Gaudreau picked up his 98th point of the season with an assist on Derek Ryan's beautiful first-period tally, but it wasn't enough as the Flames closed out a three-game California road swing with a 3-1 loss to the Anaheim Ducks on Wednesday at the Honda Center.

 

Video: CGY Recap: Gaudreau continues point streak in loss

 

While the game didn't mean a whole lot (for either team) when it comes to the standings, the realization that Johnny Hockey is now only a breath away from 100 adds a nice little subplot to Saturday's Battle of Alberta.

"It'd be cool, obviously," Gaudreau said in typical nonchalant fashion. "It's something that I'm trying not to focus on too, too much.

"But I realize how close I am.

"That's not the reason I'm playing right now, though. You guys know me long enough, I want to be out there, I want to be playing games, rather than sit in the press box and watch my teammates play. I feel rested, feel ready to go [for the playoffs]."

 

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But even he admits the milestone would be a nice feather in his cap after a full season of work to get here.

And to do it as home, in front of the fans that have supported him so, would be the topper.

"Not only this season, but throughout my whole career, the fan support is incredible," Gaudreau said. "It's going to be fun. I don't think we've been back since we clinched the Western Conference, so I'm sure they'll be excited about that.

"To play against Edmonton - one of our big rivals - it's going to be a fun, exciting game."

With Wednesday's loss, the Flames' record falls to 50-24-7 on the year.

David Rittich got the start for the Flames, posting 29 saves in a losing cause.

Rookie Sam Steel - who had his first NHL hat trick in a 5-4 win over the Vancouver Canucks last week - opened the scoring with a howitzer from the high slot at 5:01 of the first. The play started with a giveaway that prolonged an already long shift deep in Calgary territory, before Rickard Rakell found the former Regina Pat sniper with a beautiful pass at the hash marks.

The Ducks then opened up a two-goal lead less than two minutes later when fellow first year Max Jones made a powerful move to protect the puck on Oliver Kylington, spinning and roofing it high, short side with a nifty little spin move at the bottom of the circle.

But the Flames - who had only one of the first five shots - overcame the slow start and started pouring on the offence midway through the frame.

Ryan was the recipient of a gorgeous feed from Gaudreau, and the veteran did the rest with a burst down Main Street before freezing the goalie and potting his 13th of the year with a cheeky backhand tuck.

 

Video: CGY@ANA: Ryan slips a silky backhander past Miller

 

"That's huge for a guy like him," Ryan said of Gaudreau's pursuit of the century mark. "He obviously creates a lot offensively, so it's exciting to see him reach, maybe, that milestone.

"I mean, even if he doesn't reach it, it doesn't take away from how good of a season he's had. It's been a lot of fun watching him. He's been dynamic; he makes crazy plays that no one else thinks of. He's a huge part of our offence, so hopefully he gets rewarded and hits that milestone."

Former Calgary Hitmen star Ryan Getzlaf put the homeside back up by a pair less than five minutes into the second. With a Ducks penalty set to expire, Getzlaf took it all the way up ice, changed up the angle with an inside-out fake on Rasmus Andersson, and fired it (off one foot, no less), off the far post and in to record his 14th of the campaign.

The Flames had plenty of chances to mount a comeback, but the powerplay going 0-for-5 was their ultimate undoing as the homeside cruised to the finish line.

"I didn't think we had a lot of jump, a lot of fire," Ryan said. Obviously not our best game.

"It's tough to play a game like this, but you still have to find a way to be professional. We had our chances, but just kind of a lacklustre performance in my opinion."

For the second time since clinching the Pacific title, the Flames rested a number of regulars, including Sean Monahan, Elias Lindholm, Mark Giordano, TJ Brodie, Travis Hamonic and Noah Hanifin all sitting out.

"I thought we got behind it a little bit, and then we chased it," said head coach Bill Peters. "A lot of ice time for some young guys, and a lot of opportunity for other guys that they don't normally get."

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