Colorado Avalanche right wing Mikko Rantanen, front, drives past Calgary Flames left wing Matthew Tkachuk during the first period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, March 5, 2022, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Gaudreau scores 37 seconds into OT, Flames beat Avs 4-3

DENVER — Johnny Gaudreau scored 37 seconds into overtime, Elias Lindholm had two goals and the red-hot Calgary Flames beat the Colorado Avalanche 4-3 on Saturday night in a matchup between two of the Western Conference’s top teams.

Gaudreau took a pass off the boards from Lindholm and beat Pavel Francouz to the glove side for the winner.

Erik Gudbranson added a goal for a Calgary team that is 13-1-1 over its last 15 games. This marked the first time this season the two teams that lead their respective divisions have squared off. But they will be well-acquainted by the end of this month as they meet three times.

Dan Vladar finished with 32 saves, including a point-blank shot from Nazem Kadri late in the third period.

Gabriel Landeskog, Andre Burakovsky and Nathan MacKinnon scored for Colorado, which lost a rare home game. The team is 21-1-2 over its last 24 home games. Francouz made 21 saves as he took over for Darcy Kuemper, pulled early in the second period after allowing three goals.

Trailing 3-2 early in the second following Gudbranson’s goal, Colorado tried to generate a spark by making a change in net. Kurtis MacDermid also attempted to light a fire by picking a fight with Milan Lucic.

Nothing worked as well for Colorado as this: Cale Makar stopping a rush by sliding in front of the play. He then got up from behind his goal, skated the puck down the ice and dished it off to set up MacKinnon’s score to tie it at 3.

It was the 11th straight game in which Makar has recorded an assist. The only defensemen in NHL history with longer streaks are Paul Coffey (17 games, 1985-86), Brian Leetch (15 games, ‘91-92), Phil Housley (14 games, ’92-93) and Bobby Orr (14 games, ‘70-71), according to NHL Stats.

The opening period was a high-scoring, back-and-forth affair, with Landeskog getting things started by knocking in a goal 42 seconds into the game. With that, he reached the 30-goal mark for the second time in his career (34 in 2018-19).

The lead didn’t last long as Lindholm tied it on a power play less than two minutes later. Colorado took a 2-1 lead on Burakovsky’s power-play goal, but that advantage was erased even quicker when Lindholm scored again just 1:06 later.

Colorado entered off a loss in Arizona. The Avalanche haven’t dropped back-to-back games in regulation since October.

“You’ve got to find a way to bounce back,” Colorado coach Jared Bednar said. “You don’t want losses stringing together. If you want to finish at the top of the standings, you can’t have that.”

NUMBERS GAME

The longest assist streak in franchise history is 12 games by Hall of Famer Joe Sakic in 1991-92 with Quebec. … Lindholm recorded his 12th multigoal game since joining Calgary in 2018-19. … Flames F Matthew Tkachuk had three assists.

HOMETOWN TEAM

Makar is from Calgary, Alberta, and grew up a big fan of the Flames. Among his favorite players were forwards Jarome Iginla and Alex Tanguay.

“Definitely my allegiance lies somewhere else now,” Makar cracked.

UP NEXT

Flames: Start a four-game homestand Monday against Edmonton.

Avalanche: Begin a three-game trip Monday at the New York Islanders.