Flames score 3 in 3rd to rally past Predators 4-3
CALGARY, Alberta (AP) Johnny Gaudreau's offensive skills were on full display Friday night.
The 5-foot-9 rookie sparked a third-period comeback with a goal and an assist as the Calgary Flames scored three times in just more than 4 minutes to beat the Nashville Predators 4-3.
Gaudreau set up the tying goal, drew the penalty that led to the go-ahead goal on a power play, and scored an important insurance goal that ended up being the game-winner.
''It seems like the puck's on a string for him lately, not just this game but the past few. It's really nice to see,'' Flames captain Mark Giordano said. ''Tonight, he was a game changer. There's nothing else to say. He really changed the game for us.''
With the Flames trailing 2-1, Jiri Hudler got the rally started with the tying goal 2:36 into the third. It came on a setup from rookies Markus Granlund and Gaudreau.
After TJ Brodie's pass deflected in off Predators defenseman Shea Weber to give the Flames the lead at 4:23, Calgary went ahead by two goals 2 minutes after that.
Gaudreau darted down the left wing and showed good strength in fending off the stick check of Craig Smith before whipping a shot from a bad angle that beat Pekka Rinne over his shoulder.
After beginning the season with no points in his first five games, a stretch that culminated in him being a healthy scratch, Gaudreau has two goals and four assists in his last six games.
''I know every game I'm feeling more comfortable and it helps when you're playing with guys like Hudler,'' Gaudreau said. ''I'm just real fortunate to get to play with a lot of skilled guys. That's just going to make me a better player when I'm playing with great players like that.''
Contrary to earlier in the season when he appeared more cautious, now when Gaudreau gets the puck he attacks the opposing defenseman. In the first period, he completely turned Anton Volchenkov inside out on an individual rush.
''I'm feeling a lot better in the defensive zone every game and I think that's just going to help me have more time in the offensive zone and create more offense,'' Gaudreau said.
Sean Monahan also scored for the Flames (6-4-2), who finished 2-1-2 on their homestand. They begin a five-game road trip Sunday night in Montreal.
James Neal paced Nashville (6-2-2) with two goals, giving him seven this season. Smith also scored for the Predators, who have split the first two games of a six-game road swing. Their longest trip of the season continues Sunday in Vancouver.
''In this league, if a team hangs around long enough and gets a few bounces, they're right back in it and it gives themselves some life. It's just that 6 minutes in that third period where they got some life and we just couldn't get it back,'' Neal said. ''Other than that, I liked the way we play on the road and it's a tough loss when you feel like you deserve better.''
Neal made it 4-3 with a power-play goal at 10:47, but that was all Jonas Hiller gave up.
Hiller finished with 28 saves and improved to 3-2-1 this season. The veteran goalie made his second straight start for Calgary - coach Bob Hartley had been rotating Hiller and Karri Ramo.
The banged-up Flames were without three of their top centers in Mikael Backlund (abdominal strain), Matt Stajan (knee) and Joe Colborne (upper body). They joined Mason Raymond (shoulder), who is also sidelined.
''My job is to make our players believers,'' Hartley said. ''I know everyone in the hockey world is waiting for us to trip, but I have faith in our guys. We're going to succeed because we're hard workers, we're good people.''
Neal and Mike Ribeiro, who leads the team in points, were both acquired last summer by Predators general manager David Poile in an attempt to generate more offense for his team, which finished 19th in scoring last season while missing the playoffs by three points.
''Our guys played hard tonight. They were constantly on the attack,'' Nashville coach Peter Laviolette said. ''We weren't able to pull away when it was 2-1. I think we continued to press. It seemed like we had a lot of zone time. We just couldn't find the one net that would help us pull away.''
Rinne gave up a season-high four goals on 30 shots and fell to 6-2-1.
NOTES: Brodie's four goals match his career high. ... The game marked the NHL debut of Flames LW Michael Ferland and the season debut for Granlund. ... Ferland (upper body) left late in the second and did not return after a hit by Anton Volchenkov. ... RW Devin Setoguchi and RW Brian McGrattan were back in Calgary's lineup. They had been healthy scratches for the last four and five games, respectively.