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Gaudreau scores shootout winner as Flames rally from two down to take a 3-2 decision in Dallas

by RYAN DITTRICK @ryandittrick /

DALLAS - Talk of a quick start dominated the headlines.

The need to wheel, create chaos, and roll the four lines, early, paramount to getting the trip off on the right foot.

Turns out, it was the finish that created the most drama.


Video: Gaudreau leads Flames past Stars in shootout

Goals by Elias Lindholm and Noah Hanifin helped the Flames rally from a two-goal, third-period deficit to force overtime, setting the table for a wildly entertaining 3-2 shootout victory.

Johnny Gaudreau did the damage in the skills competition, showing sweet hands and giving the Flames their first shootout win since Nov. 5, 2017 against the New Jersey Devils - snapping a skid of nine consecutive setbacks.

With the win, Calgary's record improves to 2-1-1 on the year.

"Obviously, I've struggled in the past with shootouts and breakaways," Gaudreau said. "It's nice for the confidence to get one there. I was going to shoot, but saw (Ben Bishop) went halfway down, so I gave him another fake-pump and brought him all the way down.

"It was a good finish. Nice to get the two points tonight."

Alexander Radulov had a chance to foil the feel-good theatre on a penalty shot with 20.9 seconds left in OT, but David Rittich made a great save to send the game to a shootout.

Rittich was diallied, finishing with 34 saves in all.

With the Flames trailing 2-0 early in the final frame, a powerplay goal by Lindholm got the visitors on the board, off the mat, and right back into contention.

On a play made possible by Mark Giordano, Lindholm rifled a long shot off the far post and in to make it a 2-1 game at 2:49 - only minutes after Stars captain Jamie Benn put the homeside up by a pair.

The Flames leveled the score with a beauty on their 20th shot of the night less than three minutes later. Hanifin followed up on a 2-on-1 between Matthew Tkachuk and Mikael Backlund, with the former sending a pass back into traffic, allowing Hanifin to walk into it and find the heart of the yawning six-by-four.

The Stars opened the scoring with 3:21 to play in the second, as a bit of a broken play off the rush turned into a partial 3-on-2.

With all kinds of time below the hash marks, the Joels - Hanley and L'Esperance - hooked up, with the former delivering a pass into the middle that was neatly tipped home at the lip of the blue paint.

Rittich had no chance on the play, stretching out with the pad to try and cut off the pass attempt, but the goal-scorer drove hard to the paint and cleverly made contact behind his left toe.

Helped, in part, by the powerplay, the Stars finished the period on a 16-9 run on the shot clock. But Rittich made several cool stops to keep his team in the game, including a ridiculous, point-blank save on Radek Faksa near the midway mark that resulted in a chorus of cheers and fist-pumps from the visiting bench in a colourful show of approval.

The Stars opened up a two-goal lead just nine seconds into the third, as Benn made short work of a Roope Hintz feed, one-timing it top-shelf on Rittich from a wide-open spot in the slot.

The goal came with a half-minute left in a Johnny Gaudreau penalty, giving the homeside their first PPG of the contest.

Cue the comeback.


Video: CGY@DAL: Gaudreau nets nifty backhand for SO winner


"We know we can score," Giordano said. "We had to get back to simplifying. I think in the second, we got in trouble because we were turning over the puck and it felt like they were playing a half-court game against us. ... But, really, we needed to manage the puck (better) and once we started doing that... Our PP got us a big goal to get us going, and we went from there."

The Flames were all over the Stars in the opening stages, recording six of the first eight shots, less than five minutes in.

It could have been 2- or 3-0 if not for Bishop, who was a finalist for the Vezina Trophy last year.

Sean Monahan felt the sting of the goalie's heroics all too well, as he gathered up the rebound from a Travis Hamonic point shot and looked to shelve it on the backhand, but Bishop got across and made a superb, left-pad save on the sniper's opening shift.

The visitors went right back to the attack, with Matthew Tkachuk and Mikael Backlund turning an innocent-looking rush up the ice into a partial 2-on-1, but again Bishop stood tall, punching Backlund's near-side try aside with the blocker.

Shots were even at nine apiece after one.

Rittich wasn't overly busy, with the majority of the shots coming from the outside, but he did come up with a steely-eyed, left-pad stop on a wrap-around try by Roope Hintz late in the stanza.

Things got busier the rest of the way, but wasn't shaken.

Not in the least.

"Every night, every game I'm in the zone," Rittich said. "That's why I'm here."



Gaudreau on his long shift in overtime:

"It was hard to get out of the zone. I feel like at one point we had a chance to cover it, and then we were out there another 45, 50 seconds. I wanted to get off, but you don't get many odd-man rushes in overtime. Was kind of gassed, but tried to finish it off."

Gaudreau on Rittich's penalty-shot save:

"Honestly, I was pretty tired and didn't really want to watch. Had a lot of confidence in Ritter there."

Giordano on the play that led to the penalty shot:

It's not a good feeling. But, a lot of confidence in Ritter. I thought he was really good, especially in the second when they - I thought they were the better team in the second period and he kept us in the game. That's a huge win for us."

Rittich on save on Radulov:

"Have you seen my record? Don't even look at it. I'm glad I got my first win in a shootout. Don't look at the record."

Coach Bill Peters on play of the game:

"The big save on the penalty shot was huge, obviously. We got stuck out there a little bit that first shift - those guys were tired. Then, we found a way to hang onto the puck a little bit more as the overtime went along. A real good job by the guys in the shootout. Ritter, too, obviously."



The Flames and Stars have had some close battles over the years. These two teams have almost a dead-even record since the Flames franchise re-located to Calgary from Atlanta. The Flames are 55-53-19-8 since, but trail - slightly - in the all-time head-to-head goal column, 548 to 547. ... The top line of Gaudreau, Monahan and Lindholm were dominant, combing for 14 of the Flames' 29 shots. ... Giordano was a horse again for the visitors, playing a game-high 28:27, while dishing out three hits.



Here are the forward lines, D pairings and goalie to start Thursday's game (starters in bold):



Johnny Gaudreau - Sean Monahan - Elias Lindholm
Matthew Tkachuk - Mikael Backlund - Andrew Mangiapane
Milan Lucic - Derek Ryan - Sam Bennett
Tobias Rieder - Mark Jankowski - Michael Frolik



Mark Giordano - Rasmus Andersson
Noah Hanifin - Travis Hamonic
TJ Brodie - Michael Stone



David Rittich


The Flames wrap up the road with a back-to-back set, beginning on Saturday in Vegas and finishing up on Sunday in San Jose.

The team then returns home to the Scotiabank Saddledome for a two-game homestand that starts with the Philadelphia Flyers next Tuesday (click here for tickets), followed by a visit from the Detroit Red Wings 48 hours later on Thursday (click here for tickets).

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