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Gaudreau, Flames end up frustrated against Maple Leafs

Forward held without point in shootout loss

by Mike Zeisberger @zeisberger / NHL.com Staff Writer

TORONTO -- Johnny Gaudreau is listed at 157 pounds. As he sat at his locker Wednesday, beads of sweat constantly trickling down his forehead, it certainly seemed as if the diminutive Calgary Flames forward (5-foot-9) would need to eat a couple of juicy porterhouse steaks during his postgame meal to come anywhere near that mark.

 

[RELATED: Calgary-Toronto game recap | Maple Leafs honor Argonauts before game against Flames]

 

The Flames had just lost to Toronto Maple Leafs 2-1 in a shootout at Air Canada Centre, and it was clear he had nothing left when it was over. He very well could have shed a few pounds in going all out from start to finish.

About five minutes earlier, Gaudreau's yell of frustration had echoed through the arena, the puck having hopped off his stick in the shootout just as he was ready to unleash his move on Maple Leafs goaltender Frederik Andersen. It was that kind of night for Gaudreau, who did not have a point.

"Those things happen," the 24-year-old said. "We did so many good things out there tonight. We just didn't get the bounces. That play was an example of it."

Video: CGY@TOR: Andersen makes 47 saves in shootout win

Scoring was about the only thing Gaudreau was unable to accomplish. He had four shots in regulation and was dangerous on practically all of his 26 shifts.

Not that any of this came as a surprise to Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews.

Fifteen months ago, Matthews and Gaudreau played on Team North America during the 2016 World Cup of Hockey in Toronto. That group of players, all age 23 and under from Canada and the United States, captured the imagination of the hockey world with its raw talent and speed despite failing to reach the medal round after going 2-1-0.

On Wednesday, Matthews and Gaudreau were back on the ice at Air Canada Centre, but as opponents, not friends.

In the end, Matthews helped the Maple Leafs by accomplishing what Gaudreau could not: scoring in the shootout. Of course, in regulation he'd seen vintage Gaudreau, the same skills he'd admired at the World Cup.

"He's just very slippery," said Matthews, 20. "You can hardly hit him out there. He's a small guy but he can shift around and through traffic so fast. And he sees the ice so well. He's a small player and his skillset is absolutely unbelievable.

"All those factors make him extremely dangerous out there."

Gaudreau was just that during overtime. He weaved in and out of traffic against Maple Leafs players at one point, drawing gasps of admiration from the crowd.

Video: Andersen, Nylander lead Maple Leafs to shootout win

"It's all about time and speed," Toronto forward Mitchell Marner said. "You expect he's going to do something and he'll turn around and do something totally different.

"You just have to be aware when he's on the ice and cut down angles."

Marner said Gaudreau is a poster child for the NHL's smaller players. The Flames forward has become an inspiration for younger players like Marner, 20.

"It's hard to look at myself that way," Gaudreau said. "For me, I just try to play hockey.

"I know and understand that there is the factor of making an impact on young players. You try to learn from smaller guys before you and you try to do the same thing. I'm sure there's kids looking at me too. It's really cool. It's a cool trickle-down effect."

Wednesday marked the ninth time in 28 games, and fifth time in the past six, that Gaudreau did not have a point. With 36 points (12 goals, 24 assists), he is tied for third in the League with Winnipeg Jets forward Blake Wheeler and has scored or assisted on 46 percent of the Flames' 79 goals.

"You just can't take your eyes off him," Marner said. "If you do, he'll make you pay."

The Maple Leafs managed to keep him that from happening Wednesday.

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