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SUPERNATURAL JOHNNY

Teammates and coach marvel at Gaudreau's wizardry in win

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames / calgaryflames.com

Everyone else, it seems, has to make do with a 12-inch B&W, fuzzy test pattern, topped by rabbit ears.

Johnny Gaudreau's screen, in stark comparison, is an eye-popping, pixel-pushing 65-inch ultra high-def, on a 16:9 aspect ratio.

"I mean, that's … Johnny,'' reasoned Sean Monahan, as if the out-of-the-ordinary were the most normal, natural thing in the world. "We see it day-in and day-out.

"He reads the game better than anybody I know. He sees the ice better than anybody I know.

"That's his hockey sense. Quick feet, quick hands. If you can get open in a quality spot, a quiet area, you're going to get the puck."

Curling away from a sliding Brooks Orpik, the wee wizard used those Avatar eyes of his to spot Monahan for a vital game-winning goal, lifting the Flames to a 2-1 victory over the Gr8 and his Washington Capitals and cauterizing the bleeding brought on by a two-game losing streak.

The objectives heading into hostilities were clear:

The Flames needed to cut down on the penalties and produce a better kill. Well, Washington finished 0-2 operating a man to the good.

They were looking for more shots on net. Well, they pelted netminder Phillip Grubauer - giving No. 1 Braden Holtby a night off - with 38, their second highest aggregate of the young season.

Shrugging off an unfortunate bounce on the Caps' game-tying goal, the puck staying inside the Calgary zone after hitting linesman Kiel Murchison (who apologized to both goaltender Mike Smith and skipper Mark Giordano for the inadvertent gaffe), the Flames stuck with it and were rewarded for their diligence on the Monahan goal at 9:09 of the third period.

"That's hockey,'' shrugged Monahan of the unfortunate kick. "It happens. A bad bounce. You gotta move forward from those kinds of things."

Video: Gaudreau talks about his red-hot start to the season

The Johnny-Monny collaboration, ably assisted by rollicking right-winger Micheal Ferland, powered the engine on this night, generating 11 shots between them and tallying both goals.

A pair of helpers - Ferland scoring the first Calgary goal, in the second period, off the slightest re-direct of a Brett Kulak point shot - pushes Gaudreau to 15 points, tied for fourth in the league.

"I knew we had a 2-on-1 to start the play off,'' said Gaudreau. "I was going to try and force it in there but I think it was (Brooks) Oprik slid a little early, so I just pulled up. I was looking for a D at first but their guys didn't really catch Monny at the back side there.

"I just zipped it down to him. (Monahan)'s one of the best at finding that little soft area. Makes my job easier. He does a great job getting open. Like that last goal tonight.

"A lot of guys would've just turned or gone around the net. He just stops and finds that area. My eyes light up when you see a guy just sitting there like that.

"I mean, No one was around him. The goalie was on the complete other side of the net.

"If I don't make that play, I don't belong in this league."

Modesty becomes the man.

Coach Glen Gulutzan challenged his No. 1 unit, playing them head-to-head, mano-a-mano, against Washington's most lethal trio, inspired by one Alex Ovechkin.

Which is kind of like trading groundstroke with Roger Federer or dunking against Dr. J.

And winning.

"I think we played really well against their top line,'' agreed Gaudreau. "Played mostly in the offensive zone tonight. We did a great job containing them in the defensive zone and a great job getting chances. We had a ton of looks tonight.

"I just feel like I'm playing better every single game. I'm confident with Monny. We're doing the right things."

In all areas.

"I know you guys are gonna wanna talk about the beautiful plays he made,'' said Gulutzan, "but I want to talk about the play Johnny made with about a minute left on the wall in our zone, under pressure, to get the puck out.

"That was a heckuva play. They had a tough assignment tonight, that crew, and they came up big."

The ideal tonic for a three-day hiatus before Sidney Crosby and the Stanley Cup champs hit town on Thursday.

"PK kept the puck out of the net and we didn't take as many penalties,'' said Monahan in summation. "Throughout the game we had a lot of pucks on net. When you're generating offence and hemming them in, you build momentum from that and the crowd gets into it.

"Much needed, tonight."

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