CALGARY — Johnny Gaudreau was born in New Jersey, but Calgary’s Scotiabank Saddledome feels like home.
Gaudreau scored goals 10 seconds apart in the first period, then set up Mikael Backlund’s overtime winner to lead the Flames to a 3-2 win on Wednesday night over the red-hot Nashville Predators.
“I just love playing in front of our fans,” said Gaudreau, who snapped a rare four-game pointless drought. “Whether we lose or win, they’re proud of us. So for me, the best gift to give back to them in a losing season is work my hardest each night and show them some creativity and excitement.”
The winning goal came on a perfectly executed two-on-one with Gaudreau patiently hanging onto the puck then setting up Backlund at the side of the net.
“There aren’t too many guys like him in this league. He’s definitely up there with Patrick Kane,” said Backlund.
“He’s having a dominant year, but those two guys are so quick in tight with the stick, too. It’s impressive to watch.”
The three-point night gives the sophomore left winger a career-high 66 points. Forty-eight (23 goals, 25 assists) have come at the Saddledome where he leads the league in home scoring, two points up on Kane.
“It’s always tougher on the road. That’s why we call this home-ice advantage. You get the last change and you can put him against certain defencemen or certain centres,” said Flames coach Bob Hartley.
Calgary (28-34-5) improves to 1-0-1 on a six-game homestand that continues Friday night against Arizona.
Anthony Bitetto, with his first career goal, and Mike Fisher scored for Nashville (34-21-13), which is 2-0-1 with two games remaining on a five-game road trip.
The Predators, who are 1-12 in overtime, extended their franchise record point streak to 14 games (9-0-5). They’ve also gone nearly two months since their last regulation loss on the road, going 11-0-3 over that stretch.
“You wish every game was perfect but it’s not,” said Predators coach Peter Laviolette.
“The big thing is they found a way to turn it around in the third period. For me that speaks volumes to the guys in the room and their commitment to get a win.”
Calgary led 2-0 after 40 minutes, but Bitetto broke Joni Ortio’s shutout at 7:44 of the third period. Then with goaltender Carter Hutton on the bench for an extra skater, Fisher banged in a shot from a scramble tying the game with 1:18 remaining.
“The first two periods we didn’t look very good. I thought they outplayed us. In the third we got a little bit of life,” said Fisher.
Gaudreau’s opening goal at 9:34 was not initially called a goal. Looking like his shot hit the goal post, play continued for a couple minutes with Calgary continuing to pour on the pressure when play was halted and the referees got confirmation the shot hit the back bar instead.
Off the ensuing face off and with the building still buzzing, Gaudreau darted down the wing and fired a shot through the pads of Hutton.
Ortio had 24 stops to improve to 2-6-3. Playing well of late, Ortio has given up two goals or fewer in six of his last seven starts.
Hutton had 31 saves to fall to 7-2-3.
The Flames lost defenceman TJ Brodie and centre Sam Bennett to upper-body injuries in the second period. They are both day-to-day.