Johnny Gaudreau scores 2; Flames hand Sabres 12th straight loss
Only 48 hours after playing in his first All-Star Game, Johnny Gaudreau was back in Calgary making the type of impact that earned the Flames’ rookie an invite to the NHL’s gala weekend.
Gaudreau scored twice in a 4-1 victory Tuesday night that extended the Buffalo Sabres’ team-record losing streak to 12 games.
"Just being around the guys that were in that locker room this weekend, it’s exciting for me to be a part of that," the 21-year-old Gaudreau said. "Now I’m excited for the second half of the season."
Gaudreau tied sophomore Sean Monahan for the team lead in goals with 15.
"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," Gaudreau said. "That pass he made in the third, that’s just an empty-net tap-in. I’ll take those."
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).
Jooris gave the Flames a 2-1 lead at 9:05 of the third period. He dropped the puck to Colborne from deep in the Sabres zone on a 3-on-3 rush. Colborne’s shot deflected off Buffalo defenseman Mike Weber to Jooris at the side of the net and he quickly fired in his 10th goal of the season.
It was the fourth game-winning goal of the season for the 24-year-old rookie, most on the team.
"Especially down the stretch, you’re going to be seeing a lot more dirty goals," Jooris said. "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 jammed in a rebound at 14:06, Gaudreau scored his 15th of the season at 17:28 on a nifty feed from Hudler. Gaudreau is third among NHL rookies in goals, one behind Ottawa’s Mike Hoffman and Nashville’s Filip Forsberg.
The Flames outshot Buffalo 15-2 in the third period.
"I thought we did play well," Sabres coach Ted Nolan said. "But once they turned it up a notch, we couldn’t keep up with them in the third period."
The Sabres have lost 12 consecutive games, all in regulation. That’s the longest streak in the NHL since Pittsburgh 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," Stewart said. "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 victory in which Calgary outshot the Sabres 45-19.
On Tuesday night, the shots were 31-18 in favor of Calgary.
Late in the second period, Monahan missed an empty net from in close and on the subsequent rush, Jonas Hiller made his best save of the game, sprawling and jabbing out a pad to rob Stewart at the side of the net.
"That’s the difference: Hiller making those big saves. That’s the importance of goaltending," Nolan said. "Stewart had what I thought was an empty-net goal and all of a sudden the pad comes over and makes the save."
Playing its first game in nine days, Buffalo took 9 minutes to register its first shot. However, after an offensive zone hooking penalty by Colborne, the Sabres’ 30th-ranked power play went to work and connected after just 13 seconds.
The goal, which gave Buffalo the lead at 10:33 of the first period, came on a nifty deflection by Stewart of a shot from Tyler Ennis. Stewart’s seventh goal gave him goals in consecutive games after scoring only twice in the previous 20.
The lead was short-lived, as the Flames responded by taking advantage of their first power play. At 13:40, Gaudreau skated out from the side of the net and fired the puck past Jhonas Enroth.
It was the first power-play goal in six games for Calgary, which entered on a 4-for-57 tailspin over the previous 17 games to drop the Flames from eighth in the NHL to 23rd.
Hiller made 18 saves in the victory, while Enroth stopped 27 shots.
"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," Buffalo captain Brian Gionta said.
NOTES: The NHL record for consecutive regulation losses is 17, a mark shared by San Jose (1992-93) and Washington (1974-75). … Buffalo rookie D Nikita Zadarov did not play. He’s been suspended by the team for missing practice Monday. … Injured Flames LW Curtis Glencross (lower body) is expected to return to practice Wednesday. He has missed four games.