Flames' Gaudreau ensures his line joins exclusive 40-40-40 club

Watch as Calgary Flames forward Johnny Gaudreau scores his 40th goal of the season against the Minnesota Wild off of a brilliant no-look pass from teammate Matthew Tkachuk.

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Understandably, the celebration was muted.

Losses can do that, no matter how inconsequential they are in the standings.

But that doesn’t minimize the accomplishment.

Early in the second period against the Minnesota Wild of a scoreless tie at Xcel Energy Center, there stood Johnny Gaudreau on the doorstep of NHL history Thursday night.

Taking a no-look pass from Matthew Tkachuk across the crease, Gaudreau made a slick move to his backhand before roofing it in tight for his 40th of the season.

It completed the trifecta of sorts, as the 28-year-old became the third member of the Calgary Flames to join the 40-goal club this season.

It marked just the fourth time in over 30 years an NHL team has had such triple threats.

What made the feat even more unique was the fact Gaudreau, Elias Lindholm and Tkachuk are all linemates.

The last time that happened?

It was 1993-94.

“I didn’t know that,” smiled Gaudreau, who tied Jonathan Huberdeau for second in league-scoring at 115 points.

“Pretty cool.”

Cooler still is the fact that the trio of linemates from 28 years earlier also wore Flames silks, with the names Roberts (as in Gary), Reichel (Robert) and Fleury (Theo) on the back.

They too were a hell of a unit.

“It’s hard to believe all those years go by and that’s the last time three linemates scored 40,” said Fleury, who watches the Flames game from his Calgary home.

“Strange. It amazes me that they say the game is more skilled than when we were playing, and then you have something like this take this long to happen.”

Gaudreau’s line joins the 2018-19 Tampa Bay Lightning (Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point, Steven Stamkos) and the 1995-96 Pittsburgh Penguins (Jaromir Jagr, Mario Lemieux, Petr Nedved) as the only clubs with three 40-goal men since Fleury’s team did it.

The Lightning and Penguins scorers were split over two lines, unlike Calgary where the lads have been together all season long to also post the three highest plus-minus numbers in the loop.

“They’re fun to watch,” said Fleury of Calgary’s top line, which has clearly been the NHL’s top scoring unit this season.

“They have a great coach. They’re a completely different team. They don’t turn pucks over, they’re responsible, they backcheck and that’s all coaching, getting all these young, skilled guys to learn how to play without the puck.

“If you can get the skilled guys to do that you’re going to have team success. (Coach) Darryl (Sutter) is all about team, he doesn’t care about stats.”

Ain't that the truth.

“(Gaudreau) scored from me to you – four feet,” said Sutter, following a 3-2 overtime loss that saw the Flames claw back to force extra time for the second straight game.

“That’s how you score. That’s how he scored his 40th, that’s how he’ll score when it’s for real.”

‘For real,’ means playoffs.

Those start, in all likelihood, Tuesday against either Dallas or Nashville.

With one game left the Predators have a one-point edge on the Stars following a 5-4 shootout win in Colorado with former Flames goalie David Rittich in net.

Given the Flames’ 10-1-2 record of late, the good news is that the mojo this team has been building ever since the all-star break continues.

Against a surging Wild club that is on an 18-2-3 run, Jacob Markstrom appeared sharp following a one-week break from action, making 22 saves before a Kirill Kaprizov power-play blast beat him in extra time.

The Flames did well to match the intensity of their hosts, who had far more to play for, given their dogfight with St. Louis for home-ice advantage in their first-round matchup.

Back to Gaudreau, who became just the 14th player in NHL history to pick up 90 even-strength points in a season, joining a who’s-who list of Hall of Famers in the process.

It's the NHL's highest even-strength point total since Jagr had 95 in 1995-96.

“It was cool,” said Gaudreau of the 40th, which he almost added to in the final minute when he let a brilliant Lindholm pass slide off his stick while staring at an open net a few feet away.

“Obviously it got our team kickstarted in the second. Cool thing to do. Unfortunately it wasn’t the outcome we wanted as a team.”

Because his line has been so dominant, the overtime loss hardly matters for the Pacific Division champs.

“Those two have been playing great all year,” said Gaudreau, when asked about sharing history with his linemates.

“Getting a chance to play with them all year has been a lot of fun for me. Been very fortunate to play with some really good players in my career and these two are right up there at the top of the list.”

Two nights after scoring the overtime winner in Nashville, Lindholm scored his 42nd of the year against old teammate Cam Talbot to tie the game late, demonstrating once again how clutch the line is.

“Obviously it’s a good accomplishment, especially when all of us got it,” said Lindholm of the 40-40-40 Club.

“It’s been a good season. Fun so far. Obviously, we have some good chemistry and we played a couple games last season and have been building on that since we started this season.

"For myself my game is pretty easy: play simple, work hard and give them the puck as much as possible and they will do the magic.”

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