When he’s done hitting milestones as one of the game’s great playmakers, Johnny Gaudreau may have a future as a pretty entertaining play-by-play man.
Asked what stood out about a shorthanded beauty Elias Lindholm scored as part of a heroic Saturday afternoon in Washington, Gaudreau beamed at the opportunity.
“He won the draw, we got the puck out and he beat the defenceman up the ice,” started Gaudreau of a 200-foot play that was preceded by a blocked shot on Alex Ovechkin.
“He sent the defenceman back to the gym, brought it to the net, undressed the goalie and then went bar down. It’s hard not to kind of remember a goal like that. It was a pretty nice goal.”
As good as they get, especially when you follow it up with an overtime winner to cap your second career hat trick for a 4-3 road win.
The defenceman Lindholm dislodged from the puck was former Norris Trophy runner-up John Carlson, who was a tad lackadaisical retrieving the biscuit before he was checked out of the way at Washington’s faceoff dot amidst an epic shift that saw him out-wait Vitek Vanecek with a deke before roofing it in tight.
It was part of Calgary’s three-goal first-period lead Lindholm scored twice in – a fine start the Capitals erased in the second to set up Lindholm’s sixth of the season in the extra frame.
Having scored in all four games to climb atop the NHL’s leading goal scorers list with Connor McDavid and Anze Kopitar, Lindholm’s red-hot start didn’t even earn him the game puck.
That honour went elsewhere, thanks to a two-assist performance from Gaudreau that gave him 500 points in his 524th NHL Game.
Asked who got the keepsake, Lindholm immediately deferred to the veteran in a post-game Zoom exchange when the two chuckled as they tried handing the honour to one another.
“Johnny,” said Lindholm.
“No, give it to Lindy,” smiled Gaudreau.
“No, Johnny. 500,” insisted Lindholm.
“We’ll give it to a fan,” laughed Gaudreau.
That fan will likely be one of the many family members who attended the game as they so often do during Flames eastern swings.
“It’s sweet,” said the undersized dynamo of a milestone few could have predicted the Boston College revelation would hit so quickly after being drafted 104th overall in 2011.
“Obviously special my family is here. It’s been a real long time for everyone, so no one takes it for granted. To be able to play in front of the people that support you the most is pretty special.
“It was an important game for us, starting off the road trip 2-0. It was a good team effort and a big goal by Lindy in overtime.”
Lindholm has long been considered the Flames’ best overall player even though, as Darryl Sutter put it, he rarely gets that credit “because there are bigger names here.”
Gaudreau’s being the biggest.
On Saturday they shared the spotlight.
The two have played together the bulk of the last three years, and all four games this season, building chemistry that has both off to great starts.
“It’s always fun to play with a playmaker like that – I try to find open areas and if I’m open I know he’ll find me there,” said Lindholm, whose opening goal and game-winner both came courtesy of great passes by No. 13.
“Five hundred… it’s huge. Johnny is an amazing player and I’ve been lucky enough to play with him for a long time now.”
In a game in which the Flames squandered their three-goal lead with a shaky second period, Lindholm was the driving force all afternoon, firing seven shots on net in almost 22 minutes of ice time while spearheading the penalty kill and power play
“It’s kind of repetitive what I say about Lindy,” said Sutter, who uses superlatives to describe the consummate 200-foot player.
“Now we’re expecting him to score three goals every game.”
What people couldn’t have been expecting was a start by Dan Vladar, who made his first appearance as a Flame, making 22 stops in a win that would normally have been punctuated with a game puck presentation.
Asked if he understood why he didn’t get so rewarded, he turned to the team’s public relations staffer for clarification.
“I think Johnny had his 500 points?” said the 24-year-old Flames newbie before breaking into a grin.
“So, I think that’s a little bit more than the first win with the franchise. I’m really happy for him and obviously he’s a great guy and a great leader and I’m really happy I can share a locker room with him.”
He’s not the only one who feels that way.