Gaudreau scores 37 seconds into OT, Flames beat Avs 4-3
By PAT GRAHAM
DENVER (AP) Johnny Gaudreau ended what had all the feel of a playoff game with a breakaway goal early in overtime.
Coming up clutch in OT? He's certainly no stranger to that.
The Calgary forward scored 37 seconds into the extra period, Elias Lindholm had two goals and the red-hot Flames beat the Colorado Avalanche 4-3 on Saturday night in a matchup between two of the Western Conference's top teams.
Gaudreau took a pass off the boards from Lindholm and was off to the races, beating Pavel Francouz to the glove side for the winner. It was Gaudreau's 11th career OT goal, which ties Sean Monahan for the most in Flames history.
"It was a tight game, and we found a way," Gaudreau said.
Erik Gudbranson added a goal for a Calgary team that is 13-1-1 over its last 15 games. This marked the first time this season these two teams that lead their respective divisions have squared off. But they will be well-acquainted by the end of this month as they meet three times.
"It was a big game for us," Gaudreau said. "We played a real good team tonight."
Dan Vladar finished with 33 saves, including a point-blank shot from Nazem Kadri late in the third period.
"He doesn't play all the time but when he gets his opportunity to go into the net, he makes the most of it," Gaudreau said. "He helps us win games, stops the puck and he's just a real good goaltender."
Gabriel Landeskog, Andre Burakovsky and Nathan MacKinnon scored for Colorado, which lost a rare home game. The team is 21-1-2 over its last 24 games at Ball Arena. Francouz made 21 saves as he took over for Darcy Kuemper, pulled early in the second period after allowing three goals.
Trailing 3-2 early in the second following Gudbranson's goal, Colorado tried to generate a spark by making a change in net. Kurtis MacDermid also attempted to light a fire by picking a fight with Milan Lucic.
Nothing worked as well for Colorado as this: Cale Makar stopping a rush by sliding in front of the play. He then got up from behind his goal, skated the puck down the ice and dished it off to set up MacKinnon's score to tie it at 3.
It was the 11th straight game in which Makar has recorded an assist. The only defensemen in NHL history with longer streaks are Paul Coffey (17 games, 1985-86), Brian Leetch (15 games, `91-92), Phil Housley (14 games, '92-93) and Bobby Orr (14 games, '70-71), according to NHL Stats.
The opening period was a high-scoring, back-and-forth affair, with Landeskog getting things started by knocking in a goal 42 seconds into the game. With that, he reached the 30-goal mark for the second time in his career (34 in 2018-19).
The lead didn't last long as Lindholm tied it on a power play less than two minutes later. Colorado took a 2-1 lead on Burakovsky's power-play goal, but that advantage was erased even quicker when Lindholm scored again just 1:06 later.
"They're a real good test for our team," Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said. "It's what our team needs. That was a playoff-type hockey game."
Colorado entered off a loss in Arizona. The Avalanche still haven't dropped back-to-back games in regulation since October.
"You've got to find a way to bounce back," Bednar said. "You don't want losses stringing together. If you want to finish at the top of the standings, you can't have that."
The longest assist streak in Colorado franchise history is 12 games by Hall of Famer Joe Sakic in 1991-92 with Quebec. ... Lindholm recorded his 12th multigoal game since joining Calgary in 2018-19. ... Flames F Matthew Tkachuk had three assists.
Bednar said he's seen Kuemper sharper, which is why he made the switch.
"I wouldn't be happy either if the coach is pulling me out of the net," Bednar explained. "I don't expect him to be happy about it. ... Sometimes you have to make tough calls as a coach."
Makar is from Calgary, Alberta, and grew up a big fan of the Flames. Among his favorite players were forwards Jarome Iginla and Alex Tanguay.
"Definitely my allegiance lies somewhere else now," Makar cracked after the morning skate.
Flames: Start a four-game homestand Monday against Edmonton.
Avalanche: Begin a three-game trip Monday at the New York Islanders.
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Updated March 6, 2022