On a night of endless highs, the buzzkill came late.
He’d been pasted by Bruins defenceman Charlie McAvoy split seconds after Gaudreau’s breakaway attempt was stopped in spectacular fashion.
It drew an interference penalty, not to mention a crowd, but left Gaudreau wincing as he skated slowly to the bench.
Gaudreau played over a minute in the ensuing power play before a concussion spotter radioed down to Flames athletic therapist Kent Kobelka to let him know Gaudreau was to leave the game to be checked.
He failed to return to the final 10 minutes.
“I know the league is trying to crack down on that stuff,” said Peters, who insisted he didn’t see the hit due to a line change discussion.
“You’ve got to protect the star players to a certain degree. People come to an NHL game and want to see the marquee names perform. Hopefully it’s minor.”
He wasn’t angry, as he had yet to review the play. He was simply stating a fact.
Make no mistake – what McAvoy did was nowhere near as aggressive, egregious or inflammatory as what Mike Matheson did to Elias Pettersson Saturday night.
However, because both plays saw defencemen take advantage of small, vulnerable players the talking points are obvious.
In the old days they might have called it “finishing a check.”
Now they call these things international incidents.
Especially when replays of the McAvoy hit seem to show from one angle the initial contact may have been made on Gaudreau’s head.
If so, a hearing is in order.
This wasn’t so much a body slam as a bodycheck, albeit with the puck long gone.
In both cases the offender was clearly agitated at being beaten earlier by the victim.
It certainly looked uncomfortable – to say the least – not to mention illegal.
What makes the discussion surrounding today’s smaller, speedier NHL even more interesting is the fact Gaudreau was hit hard for the third game in a row – a rarity round these parts.
In fact, on this night he was hit twice, including a mild knee-on-knee collision with Ryan Donato that drew a penalty after Gaudreau tried cutting to the middle.
Such abuse has to be a concern moving forward as opponents clearly aren’t scared to deliver the boom on him.
Gaudreau wasn’t made available after the game.
Concern will no doubt linger over Gaudreau’s status the next few days as the Flames were gifted a “recovery” day off after a win that gave them a 4-2-0 record on a day unofficially known as Canada’s 420.
Their next meeting is Friday at home against the Predators.
Here’s wagering he plays.
Earlier in the evening Gaudreau had scored his 100th goal of his career as part of a red-hot start that has him at nine points after six games.
The rush fans felt as they left the ‘Dome revolved around the triumphant reunification of the 3M Line as Michael Frolik returned to the lineup after being a healthy scratch the first time since his rookie year.
Frolik opened the scoring five minutes in to help the Flames out to a 3-0 lead before restoring the three-goal cushion early in the second. His attempt at a hat trick fell short when a short-handed breakaway attempt saw him lift a backhand over the bar.
It might have blown the roof off the Saddledome as fans lapped up the unexpected heroics from a player who was starting to look like the forgotten man on a deep Flames roster for the first handful of games.
This time, instead of playing second fiddle to Mikael Backlund and Matthew Tkachuk, he was the star.
Not bad for a gent logging roughly eight minutes in each of his previous three showings.
Put back together expressly to neutralize the league’s top trio – Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak – Frolik’s line quite simply dominated.
Yet, after the game the line of the night went to Flames rookie defenceman Juuso Valimaki who beat fellow countryman Tuuka Rask for his first NHL goal.
“It feels good to score on a Finnish goalie,” beamed the defenceman whose point shot bounced up and over Rask’s mitt to trickle over the line and put the hosts up 3-0 late in the first.
“I wasn’t sure it was actually my goal, so the celly wasn’t too crazy. The crowd was loud when they announced I scored it – it was an awesome feeling.”
At first it appeared Sam Bennett had stuffed it in before replays showed the goal was Valimaki’s.
So now, the city waits and worries over whether boy wonder will miss any time.
And the debate over hits like those will continue.
As it should.