RALEIGH, NC -- Johnny Gaudreau is on fire.
Gaudreau had two goals and an assist and Brian Elliott made 34 saves to help the Flames to a 3-1 win against the Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Arena on Sunday afternoon.
Gaudreau has eight points in his past four games -- all Calgary road wins.
"We need him," coach Glen Gulutzan said. "This is the time you need your big players . . . coming down the stretch. I thought he was very good tonight. I thought he was dangerous."
Micheal Ferland also scored for the Flames, who are 9-2-1 in the past 12 games to move into the first wildcard into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference. The Flames are three points clear of the St. Louis Blues, who sit second. St. Louis has played three fewer games. Calgary is also six points up on the Los Angeles Kings, who have played two fewer games.
"Big win in Nashville started it off," Gaudreau said. "We had some gritty wins in Tampa and Florida and a nice win tonight, too. I'm really happy for our group here. We've got to keep this thing going. We know we're setting ourselves up for an important month of March.
"We know how important this last month-and-a-half here is."
Victor Rask scored and Eddie Lack made 21 saves for the Hurricanes.
Video: CGY@CAR: Ferland nets breakaway on Gaudreau's feed
Rask put Carolina up 1-0 4:54 into the game but Ferland scored his 11th of the season 6:05 into the second period to tie the game. Gaudreau sprang Ferland on a breakaway with a backhand pass, and Ferland shot off the bar and in for his sixth goal in the past 12 games.
"He's a smart player on the ice," Gaudreau said. "He's got a great shot. He works hard. Throws the body around. He's a complete player. It's easy to play with players like that. I've gotten him the puck a few times on this road trip and he's found the net. We've got to keep this thing going here and keep building the chemistry."
The Flames share the NHL lead with 15 wins when the opposition scores first this season.
"We've been trying to get better at playing down a goal throughout this stretch here. We've been getting better and better," Gaudreau said. "It's great to see us keep coming back and showing some character and getting those wins."
Gaudreau put the Flames up 2-1 at 14:50. His first shot was blocked but he followed up the rebound and beat Lack for his first goal in 11 games.
Video: CGY@CAR: Gaudreau slides puck five-hole on Lack
"It's great," he said. "It was nice to pot a few. I know I've been struggling trying to find the net throughout the season here. This road trip, I felt like I played a little bit more my game."
Gaudreau scored again at 11:05 of the third period with a wrist shot from the slot to extend Calgary's lead to 3-1 and close out the win, which moves the Flames to 24-0-1 when leading after 40 minutes.
"We made that a point of emphasis at the start of the year and something we brought up with all our team," Gulutzan said. "You look at the record of all the good teams leading after two. The lesson there is twofold. You've got to play the right way and you've got to get off to a good start. There are critical moments in games - the last five minutes of the second being up one, we know where we stand.
"We'd like to play very direct because that lead in the third is an important thing in this league."
NOTES: Gaudreau has 24 road points this season after registering 22 last year. Lance Bouma led the Flames with three blocked shots. Matt Bartkowski had four hits. Forward Freddie Hamilton and defencemen Jyrki Jokipakka and Dennis Wideman were healthy scratches for Calgary.
UP NEXT: The Flames return home to Scotiabank Saddledome to host the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday (7 p.m. MST; SN1, SN960)