NEWARK, NJ — Calgary Flames winger Johnny Gaudreau got to put smiles on the faces of his friends and family in his latest return to his home state – even if one of those family members has little idea now of what Gaudreau actually did on the ice.
Gaudreau scored a go-ahead goal on a partial breakaway in the second period while line mate Sean Monahan tallied two goals as the Flames won their third straight contest by defeating the New Jersey Devils 3-2 at the Prudential Center on Thursday night.
Every game back in the Garden State for the Salem, N.J. native has special meaning for Gaudreau, but, unlike his previous three visits back to New Jersey, he marked the occasion with a goal, receiving a long backhand outlet pass from Micheal Ferland and beating Devils goalkeeper Keith Kinkaid with a backhand to give the Flames a 2-1 lead at the 14:33 mark of the second period.
In attendance to see Gaudreau score his first professional goal on New Jersey soil were his mother, Jane, his older sister, Kristen, and Kristen’s daughter, two-year-old Kamryn. Assuredly, Gaudreau’s mom and sister were ecstatic, but his infant niece is still understanding the game in which her uncle is a bona fide star.
“I don’t think [Kamryn] understands too, too much right now,” said Gaudreau when asked if his niece now has any understanding of when he scores during a game. “But my older sister, she’ll say ‘John scored! John scored!’ and she’ll get really, really excited.”
Gaudreau’s goal was a turning point in the game, as the Devils, who had scored earlier in the period to tie the game at 1-1, blew a 2-on-1 opportunity when a Taylor Hall pass was too long for teammate Jesper Bratt, and the immediate rush back up ice for the Flames ended up becoming Gaudreau’s goal.
Center Sean Monahan, Gaudreau’s line mate, scored twice for the Flames, marking his fourth consecutive game scoring at least one goal. He opened the scoring at the 4:16 mark of the second, banging home a rebound after a shot from defenseman Dougie Hamilton.
With under two minutes to go in the second, Monahan once again scored from a rebound, this time from his own shot. Coming down the left circle, Monahan hit the post with a wrist shot, but followed the puck to the opposite side of the ice and, after he was the first to catch up to the ricochet, let another wrist shot go that beat Kinkaid high for a 3-1 Flames lead with 1:55 remaining the second.
Rookie goaltender David Rittich made sure the Flames’ lead held up, as he made 32 saves – including 12 each in the second and third periods – to earn his fifth win of the season. Calgary’s win tonight improves the Flames’ road record to 15-5-5.
“Sometimes at home, you’re thinking too much or worried about little games within the game, and I think on the road we just play, stick to our systems and play hard,” said Monahan, whose 27 goals on the season now places him in the top 10 in the NHL in that category.
Kinkaid made 25 saves as the Devils lost for a second consecutive outing. Hall scored his 20th of the season to tie the score at 1-1 after converting on a defensive zone turnover by Hamilton and scoring off of his own rebound. Pavel Zacha scored a power play goal at 7:23 mark of the third period for the game’s final goal.
The Flames continue their six-game road swing in the New York City area, as they play the Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Friday night. New Jersey heads on the road to play the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday before coming back home to take on the red-hot Boston Bruins at the Prudential Center on Sunday.