We're all talking about his speed, his skills, but look at how competitive he is out there. He's not scared out there. He's buzzing, he's going through. - Bob Hartley
LOS ANGELES, CA -- It’s the Christmas gift the Calgary Flames were in desperate need of.
Staring down a ninth straight loss heading into the holiday break, Flames rookie Johnny Gaudreau sent Calgary caroling into Christmas with his finest heroics to date.
“It’s really special,” Gaudreau said. “These guys are such a big team in the league and we were two, three weeks there without a win. It was getting a little frustrating. It’s great to get a win, especially against a team like this that’s really, really skilled and play the game really well.
“The guys are really happy right now.”
Trailing the Grinch-like defending Stanley Cup Champion Los Angeles Kings 3-0 late in the second period, it seemed all but fact that the Flames were destined for a lump of coal.
But a late power play marker in the second period off the stick of Gaudreau, followed by a pair in a 73-second span with the Calgary net empty gave the 21-year-old his first career NHL hat trick, and in natural fashion, too.
Captain Mark Giordano led the way in overtime to give the Flames their first win since Dec. 4.
“It’s a pretty special (one),” Gaudreau said.
Though outshot 25-15 through 40 minutes, Gaudreau’s first of the night -- a rebound on a blocked Dennis Wideman point shot -- gave Calgary some life.
His second, with just 2:12 remaining in regulation, dazzled. After working his way behind Kings starter Jonathan Quick and back out front, Gaudreau slid a cheeky changeup through the legs of the opposing goaltender to cut the lead to 3-2.
He banked his third off Los Angeles defenceman Drew Doughty to complete the natural hat trick at 19:01 to force OT and set the stage for Giordano’s heroics.
“Johnny Hockey turned the show on. A couple of great goals by him,” Giordano said. “The goal to make it 3-2 with two minutes left obviously gives us a chance, but what a play to come out and open the goalie up to put it through his five-hole. And then a bit of lucky one to tie it.
“For all the bad things, luck-wise, that have happened to us lately, I think we deserved a break and we got one.”
During Calgary’s eight-game losing skid, the Flames managed just 13 goals. Gaudreau had three of them.
He added three more to snap it with great timing and flair.
“Not in an easy building against an easy team. This is a big physical team and Johnny is so smart and so competitive,” Flames head coach Bob Hartley said. “We're all talking about his speed, his skills, but look at how competitive he is out there. He's not scared out there. He's buzzing, he's going through. He could have ended up with four goals.
“A great, great game by Johnny.”
Perhaps his best effort to date, too.
And it’s forcing his coach to use him.
“The way that this young man is progressing right now, the way that he’s growing right now around our organization, I have no choice,” Hartley said. “He doesn’t give me a choice. You look on the bench and you see this guy dominate. We get back between periods; we talk between coaches. His name always comes up. Generates chances, playing well defensively, making plays.
“Tonight, he was on fire.”