CALGARY — Ryan Getzlaf should know better by now.
The Anaheim Ducks captain should have been aware that the later you take a lead on the NHL’s comeback kings, the Calgary Flames, the less time they have to come roaring back. As such, Getzlaf’s two goals in the opening 2:51 of the game didn’t mean that his Ducks were in control. Not at all.
What it meant was that the Flames still had more than 57 minutes to forge a comeback. Nobody in the NHL has more points than Calgary when trailing after 20 minutes — or after 40 minutes, for that matter — and nobody was going to deny Calgary another two points on Wednesday night.
With all the lead-time Getzlaf provided, the Flames didn’t even need the rest of the first period to tie the game 2-2. Then they scored three times on four shots in the middle period to lead 5-3 after two periods, en route to a 6-3 win.
“You think about it,” began Johnny Gaudreau, who was worth the price of admission with two goals Wednesday. “We were down 4-0 with 13 minutes left the other night (in Ottawa), and came back from that. We come back from a lot of scores.”
This was a milestone night for the Flames, as Gaudreau’s pair gave him 50 points in his rookie season, while Sean Monahan added his 25th goal of the season and ex-Leaf Matt Stajan cashed in twice. It was Gaudreau who stole the show, though.
He was too quick for the Ducks and trying to hit Gaudreau was, as Brad McCrimmon once said of trying to put the body on Wayne Gretzky, “like hugging fog.”
“Johnny Gaudreau had the game of his young career so far. He’s going to get many more like this, but tonight he was flying,” assessed Calgary’s head coach Bob Hartley. “He was quick, he was supersonic. Gosh, even from the bench, many times, (assistant coach) Martin Gelinas and I were … looking at Johnny like we were hockey fans sitting in the stands, watching.”
Alas, they weren’t the only two standing around watching Gaudreau and the Flames skate.
“You score two quick goals and you think everything’s going good,” said Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau. “When you get three hits after two periods, when you’re a team that we have, that’s the troubling part. Pretty disappointed right now.”
“There’s no reason why we should have one hit at the end of one period,” echoed Ducks centre Ryan Kesler. “We didn’t make it hard for them. We gave them an easy game. That’s what that team can do when you give them an easy game.”
Beat perhaps the best team in the Western Conference for fun, that’s what Calgary did. Anaheim might be tied with Nashville at 91 points, but they’ve been on top for a long while and know how to win — in the regular season at least.
Calgary only had seven shots in the final 40 minutes, yet scored four times. They scored on three of four shots in the middle frame.
“But they were grade-A scoring chances,” lamented Boudreau. “It wasn’t like they just got a little chance. Whether they had 23 shots in the game and score six goals, our goalie I didn’t think could do much on any of them.”
Gaudreau, who had a third goal called back on a high-stick, becomes the first Flames rookie to score 50 points since the great Jarome Iginla in 1996-97. Meanwhile, only Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon has more points than Monahan (101-81) from the 2013 draft class, and no one has more goals than Monahan’s 47.
In the replacing Mark Giordano department, the pairing of Dennis Wideman and Kris Russell had three assists each. Another defenceman, Deryk Engelland, stepped up with a momentum-changing scrap when the Flames were trailing 2-0 early in the first period.
“Eggo steps up, has a big fight for us, changes the tide,” said Russell.
The win vaults Calgary past Winnipeg and into seventh place in the West. The Toronto Maple Leafs visit the Saddledome Friday night.