I’ve been gripping the stick a little too tight there the past four or five games. It’s nice to get on the scoresheet and help the guys contribute offensively. I think I just feel a little bit more relaxed. - Johnny Gaudreau
WINNIPEG, MB -- The monkey on the back of Johnny Gaudreau might’ve been bigger than he is.
But that didn’t stop the 5-foot-9, 160-pound Calgary Flames winger from shrugging him aside Sunday in a 4-1 win against the Winnipeg Jets.
Gaudreau scored his first of the season near the midway mark of the second period, a power play marker coming after neatly tucking a wrap around by Jets goaltender Ondrej Pavalec that served as the game-winner in Winnipeg.
“I tried to catch the goalie off guard there and get a quick wraparound and I got the puck in the net there,” Gaudreau said. “I think just keep playing my best here.
“I was pretty happy to get the first one out of the way.”
Gaudreau scored his first career National Hockey League goal in his first game. It came in Calgary’s season finale against the Vancouver Canucks last April.
He had to wait a little longer -- his sixth game, in fact -- to record his first this time around.
Admittedly, the longer he went the tighter Gaudreau said he gripped his stick.
“I’ve been gripping the stick a little too tight there the past four or five games,” he said. “It’s nice to get on the scoresheet and help the guys contribute offensively. I think I just feel a little bit more relaxed.
“It was a little difficult at times. You try to keep your head up and stay positive and just make sure you’re happy with your team effort and individual effort at times. It’s a great time because we did so well on the road here.”
The goal came just one game after being assigned to the press box for observational duty as a healthy scratch against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday.
“I mean, hopefully it worked,” Gaudreau said. “I think I played a better game tonight. It’s nice to always help contribute offensively. I think the whole team as a whole it was one of our better games on the road. I’m pretty with the win.”
The effort paid immediate dividends for Gaudreau’s confidence.
A shift later, Gaudreau set up Mason Raymond’s insurance marker to mark a two-point effort.
“I think you could see after he scored that goal the confidence,” Raymond said. “He’s a heck of a hockey player. He made that play.
“Rookie or no rookie, players go through that. I’ve been there. Everybody’s been there. Everybody’s been telling him to stay confident. He’s a heck of a hockey player and I think he proved that tonight. It’s one game.
"He’s going to enjoy that and hopefully everyone can ride on that."
Calgary coach Bob Hartley noted a marked difference in the 21-year-old rookie after being scratched.
“He was great in situations where he wants those pucks,” Hartley said. “Just looking at this wraparound, it must’ve been in a record time. Pavalec had no change at all. The pass that he gave Mason Raymond on the rush, you need a special skill set to make that past.”