PHILADELPHIA — Johnny Gaudreau used to cheer from the Philly seats as loud as any kid could for his hometown Flyers.
Gaudreau left the Flyers’ home ice smiling again — a happy homecoming, only in a Calgary sweater.
Jiri Hudler scored 1:23 into overtime to lift the scuffling Flames to a 3-2 win over Philadelphia on Tuesday night.
The win marked a successful return to the area for Gaudreau, the 21-year-old rookie and New Jersey native who had hundreds of fans in attendance. Gaudreau assisted on the winning goal, helping the Flames rebound after blowing a 2-0 lead.
“It was just as special as I thought it would be,” he said.
He helped the Flames win for the second time in six games as they try to make a push in the Western Conference playoff race.
Sean Monahan and Mikael Backlund scored for the Flames.
Sean Couturier and Mark Streit both scored in the third period for Philadelphia.
Trying to get back into the Eastern Conference playoff race, the Flyers gamely rallied in the third. Couturier scored his 13th goal early in the period to cut it to 2-1.
The Flyers appeared to get the tying goal minutes later as Nick Schultz crashed into goalie Karri Ramo. But after the officials huddled for several minutes, the no-goal call stood because Schultz made incidental contact in the crease with Ramo before the puck crossed the line.
“I don’t know if I got pushed or whatever. It ended up going in the net,” Schultz said. “I guess they figured it wasn’t a push, it was interference, so it’s no goal.”
Ramo, who had 35 saves, went down the next time the Flyers were near the crease and this time the tying goal counted. Streit’s tip-in for his ninth goal evened the score at 2 and sent the net flying.
“We should have been able to close it out,” Flyers goalie Steve Mason said.
Not this time.
Monahan scored his 22nd goal of the season 6:30 into the game on a slap shot from the right circle. Backlund beat Mason for his seventh of the season to make it 2-0 in the second. Ramo made it stand up for a while with 22 saves through two periods.
“Rams is the story of our past two weeks,” Calgary coach Bob Hartley said. “He’s our best player. He’s giving us lots of confidence, he’s giving us key saves at the right time. Tonight, I think he was our best player.”
The win belonged to Calgary. The night belonged to Gaudreau.
Gaudreau, out of nearby Carney’s Point, grew up a huge Flyers fan and played last season at the Wells Fargo Center for Boston College in the Frozen Four. He even played in the youth hockey games at the arena staged during Flyers intermission — when he wasn’t rooting on the orange-and-black from the stands.
His story had him swarmed by media during the morning skate and in the postgame locker room.
“That’s a little bit of a change, the media,” he said. “There’s a lot more than I’m used to. You know, I get to see a ton of friends and family and it’s an exhausting trip, but at the same time it’s something I try to take all in. You don’t get too many of these in the season.”
Gaudreau has stamped himself as one of the top rookies in the NHL and entered third on the team in points with 44. He had two assists in the NHL All-Star game.
“I’m getting a ton of scoring chances,” he said. “We’re playing well. It’s definitely a little bit more of an adjustment going from 40 games to an 82-game season. It’s something I need to learn throughout my pro career.”
He expected several hundred fans to attend the game, even some from his old high school. Gaudreau had his No. 3 jersey retired by his Gloucester Catholic high school team on Monday night.
“It was exciting for me, getting to head back to my old high school and see a ton of teachers that really helped me,” he said.
Gaudreau, just 5-foot-9 and 150 pounds, moved on to Boston College where he led the NCAA last season with 36 goals and 80 points. He won the Hobey Baker Award as college hockey’s top player and earned a familiar nickname — “Johnny Hockey.”
The Flames also won their first game without captain Mark Giordano. The defenceman tore a biceps muscle near the end of the Flames’ 3-1 win in New Jersey last week. He went down awkwardly after getting twisted off balance while attempting to fire the puck down the ice. The All-Star defenceman, who had a team-leading 37 assists, will miss the rest of the season.