The biggest battle for the Calgary Flames on Saturday might have been over who to give the game puck to.
Elias Lindholm had a hat-trick, including the overtime winner. Johnny Gaudreau earned his 500th NHL point setting up two of Lindholm’s goals. And goaltender Dan Vladar earned the win in his first start for the Flames.
Gaudreau and Lindholm laughed and pointed at the other on the podium when asked after the game who should get the souvenir.
In the end, Gaudreau’s milestone outranked the others.
Flames winger’s family there to see performance in person
He joked he’d give the puck to a fan. There were plenty to choose from as his parents and family members made the drive to watch in person – included his nieces, who hadn’t seen him in person in nearly two years.
“It’s sweet. Obviously special my family’s here,” Gaudreau said of hitting the mark in front of them. “Important game for us to start off this road trip 2-0. Big goal by (Lindholm) there in OT.”
Lindholm was incredible again, and now has six goals in his first four games. His shorthanded goal to give the Flames a 3-0 lead in the first period was even more impressive than the perfect setups from his favourite passer. Lindholm outraced and outmuscled Caps defenceman John Carlson to a loose puck and then patiently waited to roof his shot past a sprawling Vitek Vanacek.
Having already been asked about Lindholm a number of times this season, head coach Darryl Sutter summed up his thoughts on the top centre’s performance half jokingly.
“It’s kind of repetitive, what I say about Lindy” Sutter said. “Now we’re going to expect him to score three goals every game.”
With the kind of passes coming his way from Gaudreau, it would be tough to bet on him at least continuing his four-game scoring streak as the road trip continues against the New York Rangers on Monday.
“It’s always fun to play with a playmaker like that,” Lindholm said. “If I get open, I know he’ll find me.”
Vladar excited to escape with first NHL victory in Calgary Flames debut
Vladar stopped 22 of the 25 shots that came his way, with all three goals against occurring in the second period after the visitors took a 3-0 lead in the opening 20 minutes.
A bobble by Gaudreau allowed Evgeny Kuznetsov to break in alone shorthanded and beat Vladar early in the second period. Rookie Martin Fehervary scored his first NHL goal less than five minutes later. Then a turnover in the Caps end led to a break for Ovechkin. The caps sniper raced up the left side with speed and made a perfect shot from the top of the circle to beat Vladar and tie the game.
All things considered, Vladar was happy to escape with the victory.
“It feels unreal right now,” said the 24-year-old brought by the Calgary Flames as a backup this summer. “We knew Washington started off real well this season and they have a really good team. Everybody was focused today and we just came to work. I’m really happy it worked out.”
Getting the win was enough. He didn’t need the puck.
“What, was it Johnny’s 500th point?” Vladar said post-game when asked if he know why he didn’t get it.
“I think that’s a little bit more impressive than first win with the franchise. I’m really happy for him. He’s a great guy and a great leader and I’m really happy I can share a locker-room with him.”