CALGARY, AB -- Johnny Gaudreau doesn't mind putting in a little overtime.
The Flames improved to 5-0 in games decided in the extra session this season capped by Gaudreau himself, who has an NHL-leading four points in the bonus frame.
“We keep winning them and we’re going to keep staying confident going into 3-on-3,” Gaudreau said. “It’s important to have that confidence going into 3-on-3 games in overtime. I think 3-on-3 is a lot of fun for me. I want the puck. Obviously I think a lot of players want the puck, but I just try to make a difference out there and get that game-winning goal.
It’s becoming almost expected at this point, too.
“He’s a big-time player,” Flames coach Bob Hartley said. “He’s a special player. Pressure makes him better. Big moments make him better. He’s a very talented hockey player, but at the same time he’s a great competitor. That’s what makes him special.
“He’s a small tiger with a big heart.”
But Gaudreau will be the first to point out it’s not a solo mission despite his most recent display, earning the game-winner 98 seconds into overtime Friday.
No, there’s plenty of help along the way.
“I think we have a great group of offensive defencemen that play real well defensively and are really dangerous in the offensive zone,” Gaudreau said. “On offence, we have a lot of offensive guys we can put out on offence. We’ve just got a good mix we can throw out on 3-on-3, I think.”
Yes, the defence starts the offence.
“You’re a defenceman but really 3-on-3 there’s no positions,” Flames captain Mark Giordano said. “You’re playing good body position in your own zone, stay tight and try to give them the outside, but we have the green light all game, and especially 3-on-3 with guys like [TJ Brodie], [Kris Russell], [Dennis Wideman], myself, Dougie (Hamilton). We’re all expected to jump in and create.
“I think yesterday was a good example. We get that opening draw. For a minute we have the puck, we create a few chances and after that, it sort of carried the momentum onto the next shift. There’s chances back and forth, but Johnny’s proven to be probably one of the best in the league at 3-on-3.
“It’s nice to have him on our side.”
Gaudreau’s opportunity to earn his second overtime winner of the season came after a strong first shift featuring the combination of Brodie, Giordano and Sean Monahan on the ice to offset the trio of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith. With pressure in Chicago’s end, a line change to send Wideman and Hamilton over the boards with Gaudreau proved fatal for the Blackhawks.
Calgary’s sixth shot of the session, off the stick of Gaudreau, ended the game.
“Our d-men deserve lots of credit, too,” Flames coach Bob Hartley said. “Whoever is on the ice in the overtime, they get the job done. Our conditioning I think helps us, our skating. Whoever wants to be the big guy in OT, I don’t have any problem with anyone.”
Having a game-breaker in Gaudreau doesn’t hurt either, though.
Ask Brent Seabrook.
Gaudreau pickpocketed the Blackhawks defenceman before throwing a quick fake on goaltender Scott Darling and lifting the puck into the net to end the game.
“(Pavel) Datsyuk is a guy that does that really well and Johnny, he’s proving to be that sort of talent where he can…it’s one thing to be able to pick a guy’s pocket, but it’s another thing to pick someone’s pocket and go the other way and get to top gear as fast as he does,” Giordano said. “That’s what makes him who he is and so effective.”
“Not anymore because he’s a competitor,” Hartley said. “It doesn’t come with size. Size doesn’t matter. When you have a big heart and you want to be the best, you want to make the difference out there, you want to be there for the right reasons, that’s Johnny. He’s quick, he’s talented and he’s fearless out there. He’s done it all his career.
“Right now he’s at the top of the food chain and he still finds a way to do it. That’s very impressive, but for me, I’ve seen that movie quite a few times since last year. He always puts a smile on my face. Sky’s the limit for Johnny.”
Calgary practiced Saturday in front of the ‘C of Red’, opening the doors to fans of all ages in a day-long event that also featured alumni appearances and Q&A sessions with current members of the Flames.
The on-ice exhibit featured a standard team practice, but fans were also treated to shootout exhibitions and a 3-on-3 scrimmage.
“Today is to see a little bit about how we work, and right at the Saddledome,” Hartley said. “The fans responded well. They had fun. We had a little shootout, a little 3-on-3 for them. At the same time, we keep working on our game. We ran four drills at the start to show them the pace that we’re working. It was great. There was a great atmosphere. The fans had fun (and) the players had fun. It’s a great day.”
NOTES: Kris Russell, who sustained an upper-body injury in Calgary’s win Friday, was absent from practice and remains day-to-day, though Hartley said he should accompany the team on a three-game road trip starting Tuesday against the Anaheim Ducks…Jiri Hudler and Ladislav Smid were both absent from practice due to illness, and Josh Jooris missed due to personal reasons.