CALGARY — Calgary rookie Johnny Gaudreau scored a highlight-reel goal that gave everyone plenty to talk about.
Gaudreau’s first goal and point of the pre-season stood up as the game winner as the Flames beat the Colorado Avalanche 2-0 on Tuesday.
The spark from Gaudreau that the game desperately needed came at 9:05 of the second period. Bursting into the Colorado end one-on-one against defenceman Nate Guenin, the 2014 Hobey Baker Award winner went outside in, then inside out before wristing a perfect shot into the top corner on Reto Berra.
“There’s nothing better for a goal scorer than to score a goal. That’s their fuel. That’s how they gauge their game,” said Flames coach Bob Hartley. “That was worth the price of admission. I don’t know if you guys got excited but on the bench, guys reacted like fans.”
Guenin, a 31-year-old veteran, admitted it was a nice play.
“I had pinched in so I was coming back into the play. When I went to turn, he took it inside and then he went outside really quick,” said Guenin. “It was two really quick moves and then he couldn’t have put that puck in a better spot.”
The American-born Guenin, who played at Ohio State, says he hadn’t seen Gaudreau play before but knew all about him from following college hockey and all the hype around him last season when Gaudreau had 36 goals and 80 points in 40 games with Boston College.
Guenin said he could tell the talented left-winger looked more comfortable on the ice after scoring his goal.
“After that, you could tell he started buzzing a little more,” Guenin said.
Gaudreau agreed that getting that first goal after being held off the scoresheet his first three pre-season games helped his confidence.
“Thankfully, I finally got it out of the way and I can just feel a little bit more comfortable out there and just make plays and not worry about getting that first one,” said Gaudreau, who stands only five-foot-nine, 160 pounds.
Gaudreau’s bid to make the Flames season-opening roster is one of the most interesting training camp stories in Calgary. Depending on the injury situation, there are only one or two openings at forward and the speedy and talented left-winger is competing against several players including Michael Ferland and Sven Baertschi.
“I feel more comfortable every single day,” said Gaudreau, who played on a line with Curtis Glencross and Joe Colborne,.
“Playing with some of the guys that I’ve had the chance to play with only makes me a better hockey player and gives me a whole bunch of opportunities to try and make this team.”
Jonas Hiller was perfect in net for the Flames, stopping all 28 shots he faced.
“I felt pretty good, thought I saw the puck pretty well. Was able to make some key saves and it’s definitely a confidence booster for the regular season, which is just around the corner,” said Hiller, who as a free agent signed a two-year $9-million contract in the summer.
Hiller is battling with Karri Ramo for the starting job after spending the last seven seasons with the Anaheim Ducks. In three pre-season appearances, Hiller is 2-1-0 with a 0.86 goals-against average and a .958 save percentage.
Former Flame Berra went the distance for Colorado. The back-up to Semyon Varlamov finished with 22 stops.
Lance Bouma, into an empty net, also scored for Calgary (4-3-0).
While Colorado (0-5-1) remains winless in the pre-season, one of two teams without a victory, coach Patrick Roy was pleased with his team’s effort given they were without key players like Matt Duchene, Nathan MacKinnon, former-Flame Jarome Iginla and Gabriel Landeskog.
“Loved our game. I thought we competed hard. We played really well. It was a very good game. We were missing a lot of guys but I was very pleased with the effort,” Roy said.