The sample size is even smaller than Johnny Gaudreau, but it turns out it is possible for him and Sean Monahan to have success on separate lines.
In an experiment that hasn’t been seen in Calgary since selling oil was profitable, the two flickering Flames were split up Saturday in a desperate attempt to revive their scoring touch, if not the team’s faint playoff hopes.
They responded by ending lengthy scoring slumps, marking the first time both scored in the same game all season, which says plenty about why this team is where it is.
More on the club's playoff pipe dreams in a moment, as the numbers that mattered most to a disheartened team and fan base Saturday marked a staggering departure from what earned the team eight losses in its previous nine outings.
The Flames dusted off an age-old blueprint of theirs to beat Edmonton 5-0, thanks to goals from what used to be the usual suspects: Monahan, Gaudreau, Elias Lindholm and Mark Giordano.
And they did it with a defensive mindset that limited an Oilers team that has eaten Calgary’s lunch all season to a staggering 17 shots.
Yes, the stars who’ve been badly overshadowed by the Oilers studs in a season series previously led by the Oilers 5-2, finally came to play.
“When you don’t score for a while, and obviously it was the first one of the game, it feels good, but getting the two points is my main concern,” said Monahan, whose fourth even-strength goal of the year was his first in 13 outings.
“I put a lot of pressure on myself to be a go-to guy and somebody who is going to provide offence. When you’re not doing that it gets frustrating, but you’ve got to stick with it.”
Separated from his age-old pal in the third period of the Flames’ last game, Monahan started Saturday between Dillon Dube and Andrew Mangiapane, who made a great pass to find Monahan alone for an easy finish from the side of the net.
It kickstarted a four-goal second period in which the Flames looked like the team many predicted they’d be months back.
Gaudreau scored seven minutes after Monahan, converting a crossing pass from Noah Hanifin he finished from a sharp angle for his first in eight games. It came while playing on a line with Lindholm and Matthew Tkachuk, who was the only Flames star unable to find the scoresheet.
Lindholm’s power-play snipe from the high slot was his second goal in 11 games, set up by a deft pass from Gaudreau.
“It was obviously a little different - me and Monny played together pretty much every game since I’ve been here,” said Gaudreau, following his first multi-point game since late February.
“A little different, but the team won a game tonight and whatever the lines are we’ve got to focus on winning the next game here. Monny is one of the best goal scorers this organization has seen. It’s nice to see him score. It has been difficult for a lot of us throughout this year but when he’s got the puck on his stick he’s got a chance to score.”
The Flames now sit six points behind the Canadiens, who have three games in hand following a 5-0 loss to Winnipeg earlier Saturday night for their fourth loss in five outings.
Five of Calgary’s remaining 15 games are against the Canadiens, who are currently without Carey Price and Brendan Gallagher.
A rare glimmer of hope?
“I wouldn’t say we’re jacked up,” said Monahan, whose club felt tremendous relief after just their second win in ten games.
“We’re not in the spot we want to be, but tonight’s a start.”
The win adds food for thought for GM Brad Treliving who has been entertaining offers for pending free agents Derek Ryan and David Rittich, ahead of Monday’s trade deadline.
Both might be able to fetch mid-to-late-round picks, but might require having to pay some of their salary. If there’s any sense the Flames’ first complete game in months could help them kickstart a late run at the playoffs, maybe you don’t do any deals.
Darryl Sutter wasn’t keen on heaping praise on the offence, pointing instead to the first-period saves Jacob Markstrom made to get the Flames out of the first period scoreless.
“It wasn’t like they’re supposed to be together all the time,” he shrugged of the obvious Gaudreau/Monahan storyline.
“We got some balance out of our four lines. More important than all the issues with who plays with who up front, Gio and Chris (Tanev) got to play together and Noah (Hanifin) and Ras (Rasmus Andersson). That was way more significant than any other changes tonight.”
He did, however, throw a little praise Monahan’s way.
“Sean has done everything I’ve asked him to do, and more, so it’s nice to see him get rewarded,” said Sutter of the struggling eight-goal scorer.
“We put 19 (Tkachuk) and 13 (Gaudreau) with 28 (Lindholm) because 28 is such a good player – we hope to get the other two guys going a little bit.”
It marked the third time this year the high-powered Oilers were shut out, thanks in part to a scheduling juggle that staged a game that was their fourth in six nights. Several Oilers were not happy with the schedule-makers, as the game was hastily arranged for the same day Edmonton held a long-planned ceremony to honour former teammate Colby Cave, who died last April.