NEWARK, N.J. – Sean Monahan is on the verge of making NHL history and his coach is wondering if the fix is in.
Shortly after the 23-year-old Flames centre scored the Calgary Flames’ game-winning goal for the third consecutive outing Glen Gulutzan, of all people, put the inquiry light on.
"I think we should take the last two away from him," deadpanned Gulutzan following a 3-2 win over the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center.
"It was 3-1 in both the last two games and I think he’s got something going with the goalies there at the end. We’re going to look into that for Monny for sure because it’s not fair to the other guys he keeps getting the game winners."
He’s hoarding alright.
Monahan’s second of the game – a beauty rebound of his own he batted into the net – was his 10th game-winner of the season, tying him with Jarome Iginla and putting him only two back of Joe Mullen, who had 12 in 1986-87, for the most on the franchise all-time list .
What’s more, his three-straight game-deciders puts him just one short of the all-time NHL record of four, set by Daniel Alfredsson in 2006-07 and Newsy Lalonde in 1920-21. He’s also only the second Flame to pick up winners in three-straight games after Al MacInnis did it in 1994.
Yep, Friday’s tilt at Madison Square Garden could be one for the ages.
A legion of Johnny Gaudreau’s friends and family members gave up a slice of history Thursday by skipping the very first Super Bowl parade in Philadelphia to see Monahan’s linemate play upstate.
Driving almost two hours north from Gaudreau’s hometown in Carneys Point, N.J., just outside Philadelphia, the crew, which included his parents, sister and young niece Kamryn, saw Gaudreau score for the first time against the Devils. Converting a backhand past Keith Kinkaid, it broke a 1-1 tie midway through the game and left Vegas as the only NHL team he hasn’t scored against.
He later added an assist on Monahan’s winner late in the second.
"I saw them in the stands during warmups and it was exciting to see them – it’s always a lot of fun playing in front of them," said Gaudreau, who remained top-five in the Art Ross Trophy race to sit at 63 points, two more than he had all last season.
"It’s great to come back to the East Coast — I don’t get to see my family much, so when I do, I try to make the most of it. It was nice of them to skip the parade to come see me."
Making the most out of things is what backup goalie David Rittich has done so brilliantly this season, making the struggling Eddie Lack expendable (he was traded to the Devils, for whom he sat on the bench as backup last night) and giving the Flames goaltending every bit as good as Mike Smith has provided.
On Thursday he was at it again, making two of his biggest saves in the opening minute to set a pattern he’d follow 28 more times.
"Everyone knows how well Smitty has played, but Ritty is so confident out there," said Travis Hamonic of the undrafted netminder who came over from the Czech Republic last season for AHL seasoning that led to a promotion in November.
"It’s a great story of how we got him and how well he’s played – he’s a huge part of our team. His English isn’t the best but he’s very vocal."
Asked what he’s saying out there, the 25-year-old who learned English from Netflix films shrugged.
"I’m trying English and hopefully it’s English," smiled Rittich who made a tough save on a Brian Boyle backhander with 37 seconds later to preserve the Flames’ third win in a row following six straight losses.
"Two points matter, nothing else. You know, you can have good numbers and lose 1-0 but if you get two points, numbers do not matter. The two points is most important for me."
The 5-1-2 record, 2.20 GAA and .927 save percentage is also important to the Flames, who wouldn’t be in the thick of a tight playoff race if not for the settling – no, flourishing, of its backup situation.
Gulutzan wasn’t sure whether the biggest story on the night – or the season – was: the top line carrying the offensive load or the goaltending preserving their good work.
"I liked a few things – our fourth line banged bodies and blocked shots, the second line was rolling, the top line was generating, and Rittich was rock solid," said Gulutzan, whose streaky club is now 6-0-1 in its last seven roadies and 15-5-5 away from the Dome.
"When you start putting two or three of those things together in games: Your goaltending first of all, and your top lines are going and your role players going – that’s what translates to wins. Our team is just finding its identity."
While few in the New York area could identify Monahan if he was walking down Broadway beside them, the 23-year-old is now five goals behind Alex Ovechkin in the goal scoring race thanks to five goals in his last four games.
"This is an important trip for our group, coming off what happened at home and in the last few games," said Monahan, whose 27 goals ties him with his last two season-totals and is just four short of his season-best.
"Two wins to start this road trip, we’ve just got to build and continue to go."
They’ll get that chance across the Hudson River Friday night when Mike Smith returns to the net, Gaudreau’s gang will follow and hockey historians will wait to see if Monahan can get into the history books… with the help of his goalie, as usual.