Gaudreau erupts for career night as Flames’ big guns return to form

Johnny Gaudreau scored a hat trick as the Flames completely annihilated the Devils in a 9-4 win.

CALGARY – Early in the night the frustration of a lengthy slump saw Johnny Gaudreau screaming at an official in search of a call.

By night’s end his frustration revolved around something radically different.

“My hands are too small for this,” chuckled the 25-year-old as he struggled to hold three pucks in each hand for a picture honouring his historic night.

After going 19 games with a single goal, the Jersey Kid became the Jersey Mauler, scoring three goals and adding three assists in a 9-4 win over the Devils.

The slump-busting six-pack fell one short of Sergei Makarov’s franchise record for points in a game and helped him leap from eighth in league scoring to a fourth-place tie with the red-hot Sidney Crosby.

He contributed to more goals than 13 of the 14 NHL teams scored Tuesday night as part of the first six-point night the NHL has seen since Jamie Benn pulled a similar stunt at the Dome five years earlier.

And he almost had a seventh, which would have had fans scrambling to throw something other than the hats they rained down on the ice earlier.

“I could have had another one on a miniature breakaway there,” smiled Gaudreau, who insisted earlier in the day he wasn’t frustrated by his slump.

“I think the goalie knew I was going backhand – I wasn’t going five-hole again because I scored twice on him like that, so I tried to go far side and just missed.”

Could he remember a six-point night at any other point in his life?

“Maybe when I was younger,” said Gaudreau, who set off a “John-ny, John-ny” chant after setting new career standards with his 33rd goal, 90th point and six-point spree.

“A long time ago my dad used to roll two lines, so I was out a lot, so I’m sure I had a couple games where I had a lot of points, but that was because we had six forwards.”

It might have felt like the Flames rolled six forwards as his top line accounted for 14 points – a total the struggling trio hadn’t accumulated in their previous nine games.

Sean Monahan and Elias Lindholm finished with a goal and three assists apiece, which should put to rest extensive talk the last few weeks about how much the top unit had struggled to find its form since the all-star break.

“We haven’t been great the last couple weeks and it was good to see other lines stepping up – today was our turn,” said Lindholm, whose club was buoyed by third- and fourth-line scoring before its recent four-game losing streak.

“Johnny was feeling it tonight. We gave him the puck and he was all over the place making plays.”

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Gaudreau had eight shots on goal, two nights after he had nine against Vegas. On that night, the Flames’ second unit combined for 11 points, giving fans comfort the team’s big guns are back.

Perhaps one of the most amazing things about Gaudreau’s memorable night is the fact he only had one point – a goal five minutes in – by the midway mark.

In fact, the Flames entered the third period down 4-3 before a Derek Ryan shot caromed in early in the third to get the party started.

Twenty seconds later, Gaudreau was awarded the penalty shot he sought so vehemently in the second period and made good with a shot that beat Mackenzie Blackwood clean on the blocker side.

It fired him and the crowd up.

A gorgeous Gaudreau setup on Ryan’s second goal made for an easy tap-in before No. 13 scored again and later set up Monahan.

“What do you want me to say – he’s one of the best players in the league and when you’re on a 2-on-1 with him I was just trying not to mess it up,” laughed Ryan, who finished with three points in a game that allowed the Flames to stay one point behind division-leading San Jose.

“It gives you guys something to talk about I guess.”

Sure does.

“I’ve always thought ‘I still had it’ – they just weren’t going in,” said Gaudreau, when asked if he was losing faith in his ability to score.

“It was nice to get rewarded tonight. We knew we had some jump in warmup and coming into the locker room we knew we were going to have a good night.”

Making his third-straight start, David Rittich made 22 saves against a skeleton Devils squad that made things far more interesting than anyone expected given their rash of injuries.

“It’s been a tough month for us (as a line) but we knew we’d find the net eventually,” said Gaudreau, who now has five career hatties.

“Tonight everything was going in.”

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