In front of a packed and lively crowd Friday night at the Scotiabank Saddledome, the Boston Bruins played the role of Merrimack. Or Vermont. Or Providence. Or any of the myriad Hockey East opponents Johnny Gaudreau used to terrorize during his three seasons at Boston College.
Gaudreau has not slowed down since making the leap from Chestnut Hill to the NHL in 2014, and the Bruins witnessed the 22-year-old winger at his very best in their lone trip to Calgary this season.
The 2014 Hobey Baker Award winner was the best player on the ice, scoring early and often as his Flames won 5-4 in a wild affair that featured three goals in the first two-and-a-half minutes of the second period and two more in the final 1:06 of regulation.
Gaudreau scored one goal in the first period — just 33 seconds after puck drop — potted another in the second and capped his second career hat trick with a game-winner 3:20 into overtime. Calgary’s leader in goals, assists and points this season also added one helper to round out his first four-point showing since joining the professional ranks.
“Johnny gets those big goals all the time,” Flames captain Mark Giordano told reporters after the game, via the Calgary Herald. “You can’t question that he’s the best overtime guy in the league right now.”
While Gaudreau paced the Flames, Brad Marchand did the same for the Bruins, lighting the lamp twice in a losing effort.
Marchand’s first goal allowed Boston to pull even after Calgary grabbed an early 2-0 lead, and his shorthanded penalty-shot tally kicked off the game’s frenetic finish and would have given his team the win had Boston’s defense not crumbled in the final moments.
Jiri Hudler tied the game for Calgary with less than two seconds remaining, setting the stage for Gaudreau to win it in overtime.
Marchand, who also engaged Gaudreau in a penalty-box chirping match after the two picked up matching roughing minors, recently has emerged as one of Boston’s most consistent scoring threats. The 27-year-old winger has tallied at least one goal in five of the Bruins’ last eight games — including a pair of two-goal nights — and is on pace to score 41 this season. That total would far surpass his current career high of 28, set during the 2011-12 campaign.
“He was one of our good players (Friday night),” head coach Claude Julien said in a postgame interview with NESN’s Andy Brickley and Jack Edwards. “He’s been good for a while now. I think he’s playing with a lot of confidence, a lot of emotion – positive emotion, good emotion. He’s got a lot of energy in his game right now, and his shot seems to be finding the back of the net there. He’s certainly one of those guys (Friday night) that I thought had a real good game.”
Marchand did have a good game — one of his best of the season, in fact. Unfortunately for the Bruins, Gaudreau’s was better.
Thumbnail photo via Candice Ward/USA TODAY Sports Images
Thumbnail photo via Calgary Flames left wing Johnny Gaudreau