CALGARY — Forty-eight hours after playing in his first all-star game, Johnny Gaudreau was back in Calgary and making the type of impact that earned the Flames rookie an invite to the NHL’s gala weekend.
Gaudreau scored his 14th and 15th goals of the season on Tuesday as the Flames rallied in the third period to beat the Buffalo Sabres 4-1.
“Just being around the guys that were in that locker-room this weekend, it’s exciting for me to be a part of that,” said the 21-year-old Gaudreau. “Now I’m excited for the second half of the season.”
Gaudreau moves into a tie with sophomore Sean Monahan for the team lead in goals.
“I’m excited to help the team offensively. Playing with (Jiri Hudler), I’m going to get scoring chances and I’m bound to score some goals here and there,” said Gaudreau. “That pass he made in the third, that’s just an empty-net tap-in. I’ll take those.”
Gaudreau is one back of the lead for goals by a rookie, which is shared by Ottawa’s Mike Hoffman and Nashville’s Filip Forsberg.
Joe Colborne and Josh Jooris also scored to help Calgary win for the fifth time in six games.
Chris Stewart had the lone goal for Buffalo (14-31-3), which extended its team-record losing streak to 12 games.
Jooris, with the eventual winner, gave the Flames a 2-1 lead at 9:05 of the third period Colborne’s shot deflected off Buffalo defenceman Mike Weber to Jooris at the side of the net and he quickly fired in his 10th goal.
“It’s all about being aggressive around the net. Josh is a good skater, he’s hard-nosed player,” said Calgary coach Bob Hartley. “Look at his goal. There was a loose puck and there were many sticks but he was the one that found that puck.”
Jooris now has four game-winning goals, best on the Flames.
“Especially down the stretch, you’re going to be seeing a lot more dirty goals,” said Jooris. “We’ve focused on that the past couple of weeks and that’s a big part of our game that we need to improve on.”
After Colborne made it 3-1, jamming in a rebound at 14:06, Gaudreau wrapped up the third period onslaught at 17:28 on a nifty feed from Hudler. Calgary outshot Buffalo 15-2 in the third period.
“I thought we did play well,” said Buffalo coach Ted Nolan. “But once they turned it up a notch, we couldn’t keep up with them in the third period.”
The win moves Calgary, holders of the second wild card spot in the Western Conference, three points up on the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings.
The Sabres have lost 12 consecutive games, all in regulation. That’s a franchise record and the longest streak in the NHL since the Pittsburgh Penguins lost 13 in a row in regulation in 2003-04.
“It’s frustrating. We played 40 minutes of good hockey and came out in the third and kind of just crumbled,” said Stewart. “We did have our chances and we just have to bear down. When they got their chances they put them in. That was the difference.”
The last regulation win by Buffalo came against the Flames way back on Dec. 11, a 4-3 win in which Calgary outshot the Sabres 45-19.
“Perfect road game. Good 40 minutes for us but it shows our fragility there going into the third, losing it mentally, sitting back waiting for something bad to happen instead of initiating and trying to force things,” said Buffalo captain Brian Gionta.
With three minutes left in the second period, Stewart had a great chance at the side of the Flames net to break a 1-1 tie only to be robbed by Jonas Hiller, who sprawled and kicked out his pad.
“That’s the difference, Hiller making those big saves. That’s the importance of goaltending,” said Nolan. “Stewart had what I thought was an empty-net goal and all of a sudden the pad comes over and makes the save.”
Hiller finished with 18 saves in his first start in six games. After giving up six goals in a loss to Florida in Calgary’s last home game, he gave way to rookie call-up Joni Ortio, who started all five games on a five-game road trip in which the Flames went 4-1-0.
Enroth stopped 27 shots in the losing effort.
Playing its first game in nine days, Buffalo didn’t have anything going early, taking nine minutes to register its first shot. However, after an offensive zone hooking penalty by Colborne, the Sabres’ 30th ranked power play went to work with Stewart scoring on a deflection after just 13 seconds.
The lead was short lived as the Flames took advantage of their first power play of the evening with Gaudreau’s goal at 13:40.
It was the first power-play goal in six games for Calgary, which entered the night on a 4-for-57 tailspin over the previous 17 games to drop the Flames from eighth in the league to 23rd.
“We need to keep working at it. We feel we have the right people, it’s just matter of getting together, getting on the same page, getting a few goals,” said Hartley. “Penalty killing, power plays, it comes by waves and down the stretch, we need big specialty teams, it’s going to be crucial for us.”