CALGARY, AB -- October 30th.
A fifth loss in six tries at home for the Calgary Flames, to start the 2015-16 season.
It’s their last.
With a franchise record-setting streak of 11 straight wins at Scotiabank Saddledome, the Flames have gone nearly two full months without tasting defeat at home.
"What I'm really happy about is our players will get their names besides the Lanny McDonalds and all those great guys that carried this organization for so many years," Calgary coach Bob Hartley said.
"We've been playing good. It's a huge reward to our fans. Those guys have been great. I knew it was a great market and now I'm starting my fourth year and they've been patient with us, they've been very supportive, they're the best fans in the league."
It’s been quite a run.
It started with a connection between Mikael Backlund and Johnny Gaudreau on Nov. 5, a marker 35 seconds into overtime to beat the Philadelphia Flyers 2-1. Gaudreau’s initial shot was stopped by Flyers goaltender Michal Neuvirth, but the rebound ricocheted off Backlund and bounced over the line.
It improved Calgary’s record to 4-9-1 on the season, and gave the Flames just their second win of the year at home.
"The guys were pretty pumped after," said Backlund, who hadn’t scored in nine games, postgame. "It was a big relief to get this win. It would've been tough with the loss. We haven't put ourselves in a great spot so getting this was huge."
The Flames earned back-to-back wins on home ice for the first time two days later, upending Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins 5-2. Gaudreau scored twice, and Sean Monahan and Sam Bennett each had a goal and an assist.
The win bumped Calgary’s home record to 3-5-0.
"I think we didn't start out the way we wanted to, but we've been working hard in practices and trying to figure out what we've been doing wrong," Gaudreau said at the time. "I think we've been limiting our turnovers, just playing a lot better defensively, which is leading to more offence. I think that's what's happening right now.”
The Flames edged the New Jersey Devils 3-2 on Nov. 17. David Jones’ 100th NHL goal midway through the second period stood up as the winner.
"To be competitive and work your way up the standings you have to win at home, first and foremost, and then you try to gain some points on the road," Jones said. "This is such a great building with our crowd, we have to win here. That's the bottom line.
Calgary’s second overtime squeaker of the streak came with a 2-1 win against the Chicago Blackhawks on Nov. 20. It led to more heroics from Gaudreau, who scored 1:38 into overtime after stripping Blackhawks defenceman Brent Seabrook of the rebound, threw a quick fake and lifted a shot over the goaltender for the win.
It improved the Flames to 5-0 in overtime, and evened Calgary’s home record at 5-5-0.
"We just altogether, our whole team, played a lot better than we did," Gaudreau said. "It wasn't our best effort Sunday in Chicago, and our team in the locker room knew we had to come a lot better prepared to play these guys. They're the Stanley Cup champions. We needed a lot better effort than we did on Sunday."
The Flames didn’t return home again until Dec. 1. The streak continued.
Gaudreau scored in the third period and the shootout to help Calgary rally from a 3-0 third period deficit and 4-3 win against the Dallas Stars. It’s the first time this season the Stars had lost when leading after two periods.
"Games like this, it brings back the taste of last year, of those comebacks," Hartley said. "You never want to get down in a game but gosh, those comebacks feel good. The boys were having fun in the room. The music and everything ... For me, that's the best part of coaching and the best part of being in a team sport. You see those emotions, you see finally the rewards for hard work. I was very proud for the boys."
Calgary improved to 7-5-0 at the Saddledome on three days later, again in dramatic fashion, again off the stick of Gaudreau.
Gaudreau was set up by former Bruins defenceman Dougie Hamilton on the game-winner. Hamilton spotted Gaudreau, who trailed the play, in the high slot; Gaudreau skated in and beat Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask with a deke with 1:40 remaining in overtime. Gaudreau’s heroics came after Jiri Hudler forced overtime with a goal with 1.4 seconds remaining in regulation.
"Outstanding performance," Hartley said. "Johnny was one more time on top of his game. It's funny. On the bench, even the players were telling 'Go Johnny, get another one.' Really, I have the same feeling. When Dougie gave him that pass through the middle and I saw him alone I knew it was in. He's so clutch. He comes up with big plays, big goals. He's an unbelievable performer."
Mark it seven wins in a row on Dec. 8 with a 4-2 win against the San Jose Sharks. It was the first time the Flames had won three consecutive games this season.
"We're pro athletes, but at the same time, we're human beings,” Hartley said. “You lose track of what's going on, and it seems that the more that you're pushing, the more that you're going backward. Right now, we're pulling out of the hole that we created for ourselves. And the good thing is look at the standings -- we're right there. We're right there. I like the way we're progressing as a team."
An eighth straight win at home came despite a rampant bug in Calgary’s room.
Gaudreau scored the game-winner with 4:50 remaining in the third period, and Jonas Hiller made 27 saves in a surprise start to help the Flames to a 4-3 win against the Buffalo Sabres. Karri Ramo, the expected starter, did not play due to illness, and Hudler also missed the game because of the flu.
"It might not have been a perfect game, but you should've been in the locker room around 5:30, quarter to six when the medical staff runs in the coach's office saying, 'Guys are puking everywhere,'" Hartley said. "You have Karri Ramo in the laundry room and you have Jiri Hudler in the doctor's room, and they're throwing up and they're white like ghosts, and suddenly you look at Jonas Hiller and he's coming in, and he's whiter than a snowman. You're thinking, 'Gosh, I might have to put (Flames associate coach) Jacques Cloutier in to play goal."
The Flames moved within one win of the franchise record on Dec. 12 with another overtime victory.
TJ Brodie scored 2:09 into overtime and Gaudreau had two goals and an assist to help Calgary to a 5-4 win against the New York Rangers. The win served as the Flames’ fifth straight, and gave Calgary the sweep of a five-game homestand for the first time since Jan. 22-Feb. 1, 2014. The Flames have won nine in a row at home, one shy of the franchise record set from Nov. 7-Dec. 12, 2006.
"We're moving in the right direction," Brodie said. "I think now we have to find a way to win on the road. We have to start finding ways to win in regulation."
A regulation win followed.
Calgary tied the franchise record of 10 consecutive wins, set from Nov. 7-Dec. 12, 2006, in their final game before the Christmas break -- a 4-1 win against the Winnipeg Jets that featured a Gaudreau hat trick.
"He changes a game," said Joe Colborne, who also scored in the game. "Every time he steps on the ice, he can be that difference-maker and there aren't too many guys in the League that can do that. You have (Patrick) Kane, you have one or two other guys, and Johnny. Everyone kept saying, 'Oh, he's kind of like a poor man's Patty Kane.' Well, he's showing he's right up there with the best players in the League. We get to see him do it every day and we see him do it in practice, but he never ceases to amaze us.”
The old record fell Sunday.
Gaudreau and Mark Giordano each scored twice to help the Flames to their franchise-record 11th consecutive home victory, 5-3 against the Edmonton Oilers. Calgary had to rally from deficits of 2-0 and 3-1 to set the new mark and improve to 12-5-0 at the Saddledome.
"We're proud of that," said Matt Stajan, who added a shorthanded goal. "At the start of the year we struggled on home ice. That's not like us. This is a place we need to win hockey games. When we came for that big homestand, I think we played Dallas … we had a meeting. It wasn't just about winning games at home. We've got to start stringing a bunch of wins together.
“Home ice is going to be key and we were able to do that. It's a comfortable place for us. It has been, even in the playoffs last year. I think we're going to rely on this to be a place for us to hopefully give us some wiggle room here down the stretch to gain some points and get into the playoff picture."