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Flames edge elite Avs in epic ice battle

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Johnny Gaudreau has been one of the most criticized players in all of the Calgary Flames’ recent playoff failures.

On Saturday night against the NHL’s top team, he ended an exciting, playoff-worthy game 46 seconds into overtime to give his Flames a 4-3 victory over the Colorado Avalanche in Denver.

Taking a long pass off the boards from linemate Elias Lindholm – who scored twice in the first period himself – Gaudreau was off to the races. On the breakaway, he fired a perfect shot over the goaltender’s right pad to secure the extra point.

“I’ve seen that plenty of times. It’s no surprise,” Calgary Flames centre Sean Monahan said of the winning goal. “He reads the play so well, and when Lindy got that puck, he recognized it and found a way to get his feet going.”

Gaudreau may not have wanted to participate in the all-star fastest-skating competition, but he out raced Avalanche speedster Nathan MacKinnon.

The play was set up by Lindholm’s spectacular defensive play deep in the Calgary Flames zone. Muscling the massive Mikko Rantanen off the puck, picking it up and circling around to make the long-distance connection with Johnny Hockey.

Can’t wait for the rematch next Sunday.

Better yet, a Western Conference final between the Avs and Flames.

If nothing else, this victory should give the Flames the confidence they have everything they need in that locker-room to compete against the team’s elite. Whether or not they make any moves at the NHL trade deadline.

Lindholm answers back twice in complete Flames effort

Lindholm’s goals both came at critical times, answering the Avs after falling behind. The first came early on the powerplay, less than two minutes after Gabriel Landeskog gave the hosts the lead just 42 seconds into the game.

The second came in the final minute of the opening frame, quickly answering Andre Burakovsky’s go-ahead goal.

Erik Gudbranson gave the Flames their first lead of the game in the second period, continuing to surprise with his offensive contributions.

MacKinnon tied things up at the midway point, and the teams traded chances without any finish right through to the end of regulation.

A big reason for that on the Calgary Flames’ side of things was goaltender Dan Vladar. He made 32 saves in his most challenging start of the season.

It might have been the team’s most complete effort of the year.

“I thought we stayed on top of them for the most part. When we made mistakes, they capitalized on it,” Monahan said. “We stuck with it. We played together and we came away with the extra point.”

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