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OT winner and all-star appearance should kickstart Flames forward

by AARON VICKERS @aavickers /

CALGARY - Tough to say who needed the goal more, Johnny Gaudreau or the Calgary Flames.

Call it a draw.

With the Flames limping into the nation's capital to tackle the Ottawa Senators late in the week, Calgary jumped out to an early 2-0 lead that evaporated late in the third period. It forced overtime, where Gaudreau converted on a nifty passing play with Mikael Backlund to net the Flames their first win in five games, and second in the past eight.

It was Gaudreau's first goal in 12 games.

"It was huge," he said. "It was an important game for us at the end of the road trip there. It wasn't the road trip we wanted, but we knew that last game was important for us.

"All the players stepped up."

Including him. 

Gaudreau, Calgary's representative at the NHL All-Star Game in Los Angeles, will come out of the break fourth in team scoring with 11 goals and 31 points in 42 games.

Chances are he's coming back a little fired up.

"He's going to the All-Star Game here and he's going to come back firing, I'm sure," linemate Sean Monahan said. "He's going to have some confidence and get going."

Calgary needs him to.

The three-time all-star led the Flames in goals (30) and assists (48) last season, and was tied for sixth in the NHL with 78 points. The Flames will desire much of that if they fancy retaining the playoff spot they're in at the break.

The group sits in the second wild card from the Western Conference with a 25-24-3 record. Calgary leads the Los Angeles Kings and Vancouver Canucks by one point for the position, but each team has games in hand. 

It'll be a fight to the finish for Gaudreau's Flames.

And now a look at the week that was.

OVER THE BOARDS: Expect to see goaltender Brian Elliott in net on Wednesday when the Flames return from the break. Coach Glen Gulutzan told his 'tenders prior to Calgary's overtime thriller against the Senators on Thursday that he'll employ a 'win-and-you're-in' rotation. "I told them both directly today that it's 'Win, you're in,'" Gulutzan said. "We're at that point. Win, you're in." Elliott won making 25 saves. …Congratulations to the Nottingham Panthers on becoming the first British team to win the IIHF Continental Cup on Jan. 15. On the roster? None other than Big Ern himself, Brian McGrattan. …Shout out to the Calgary Inferno, who are taking their talents to Japan to play a pair of exhibition games against Japan's national women's team. "It's been unbelievable," Inferno goalie Emerance Maschmeyer said. "We've only been here for a day and a half and I've seen more than I could imagine. It's definitely surreal. I still can't believe that I'm here. It's been incredible and we haven't even played yet." Japan is ranked seventh in the word in women's hockey. …Down on the farm, Mark Jankowski paces the Stockton Heat with 13 goals and 29 points. The 6-foot-4 pivot is percolating nicely in the American Hockey League, and will represent the organization at the AHL All-Star Game on Monday. …With all the attention on Johnny, another Gaudreau is having quite a season. Little brother Matthew Gaudreau is pacing Boston College as a senior with 23 points in 27 games this season. The free-agent forward is listed at 5-foot-9, 145 pounds.

OVERTIME: As far as post-game outbursts go, Gulutzan was at his finest following Calgary's listless 5-1 loss at the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday - the fourth consecutive game the Flames dug a hole of at least 4-0. Gulutzan dropped the word 'pathetic' twice in the opening 11 seconds of his postgame address. "I have an Irish mother with an Irish temper," Gulutzan said in September. "And she didn't waste any time sorting things out if we got out of line. So I'm generally a happy person. I'm good. I don't like to be miserable every day. But if I get mad, I get mad. There's no middle ground. I've heard people say: 'Glen? Oh, good guy. Nice guy. Good communicator. Patient. But push him far enough and … snap." Snap he did. Effectively though, as Calgary scored first for the first time in 10 games, and won for the first time in four in Ottawa. Message sent. Message received.


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