There is no manual out yet on how to defend South Jersey’s Johnny Gaudreau. If there ever is, though, providing him with a string of power-play opportunities will not be in it.
Rather than extinguishing the red-hot Salem, N.J., native, the Flyers fanned a second-period comeback by Gaudreau and his Calgary Flames teammates from two-goal and one-goal deficits, aiding them greatly in their 5-4 overtime victory Saturday afternoon. Beginning at 5 minutes, 13 seconds of the period and ending at 14:56, when Gaudreau and linemate Sean Monahan combined to once again knot the game at 4-4, four Flyers took turns skating into the penalty box, resulting in three power-play goals by Monahan.
Gaudreau assisted on two and was involved in all three. Throw in his first-period breakaway goal, and the 100 or so friends, family, and high school buddies in attendance had already been given their money’s worth. Their cheers though, were drowned out by lusty boos from the Wells Fargo Center fans he once sat beside — which delighted him to no end.
“It was pretty exciting to get to score and then get that in the rink [where] you grew up watching,” said the 5-7, 157-pound all-star. “I had a blast.”
For the Flyers, not so much.
Particularly culpable during the Flyers’ second-period meltdown was the usually collected Shayne Gostisbehere, who incurred consecutive penalties – the first while on the bench – to again reverse the fortunes of a team that lately, at least, just can’t get out of its own way. Gostisbehere, who may have taken a stick to the ribs just before he went to the bench, apparently berated the nearest referee.
“I wasn’t a good team player in that moment,” Gostisbehere said. “There’s no excuses for something like that to happen. … I think I was just upset overall, and I took it out on there wrong guy.”
Nolan Patrick’s second goal of the season at 14:02 of that second period had regained the lead for the Flyers at 4-3, but on his first shift after returning, “Ghost” was flagged for an elbow, and Monahan tied it 35 seconds into the Flames’ fourth power play of the period.
The Flyers scored on their first shot of the game – the same kind of shot they have been forced to take too often during the recent scoring malaise. Brandon Manning’s controlled slap shot from the right point traveled through a small crowd, bounced off goalie Mike Smith’s left shoulder, the post, and his back, and into the net.
Calgary tied it at 7:13 of the first in a way that delighted those in the crowd with mixed allegiances. After Claude Giroux couldn’t get a handle on Sean Couturier’s shot from the blue line, the Flames’ Michael Ferland threaded a long breakout pass to Gaudreau, who craftily slipped behind the usually dependable Robert Hagg, and beat Brian Elliott to his blocker side without so much as a deke or feint.
An odd unsportsmanlike penalty call on Kris Versteeg – a Flyer back in 2010-11 — helped the Flyers regain the lead. In a textbook example of how their power play is supposed to work, Wayne Simmonds provided the initial screen on Jake Voracek’s shot from the high circle. Smith made a pad save, but the puck bounced fortuitously out to Couturier, who calmly roofed it over the Flames’ 35-year-old goalie at 15:23 to push the Flyers ahead, 2-1.
Ivan Provorov made it 3-1 at 16:08 of the first with a harmless-looking wrist shot from the point that cleared everyone, and then Smith’s left shoulder. Acquired when the Flames decided not to re-sign Elliott in the offseason, Smith has played well for Calgary, and he settled down after that, allowing only Patrick’s rebound. Among his better ones was a pad save on Couturier during a second-period shorthanded breakaway.
Gaudreau nearly had another breakaway early in the second period, again slipping past the Flyers defense. The puck was a little too far ahead, however, allowing Elliott to play it aside.
Dale Weiss’s high-sticking penalty, though, provided the Flames with another power play. This time it was Monahan whom the Flyers lost track of, as he tipped a shot from the point through Elliott to cut it to 3-2. Monahan tied it via another power play, this time with Manning off for slashing. Once again Gaudreau was involved, firing a point-blank wrists shot from the left circle that Elliott gloved but could not contain.
In the end, it was second-line winger Michael Frolik who won it in the three-on-three overtime, roofing a shot over Elliott to complete the comeback win. Gaudreau wasn’t even on the ice.
“We just kind of lost our heads there,” said Wayne Simmonds. “We’ve got to be better, We’ve got to keep our heads and focus on the play. Because we had the game. And we let it go.”
Radko Gudas’ hearing with the NHL player safety folks is today. He is expected to incur a suspension of more than five games. Mark Alt replaced him in the lineup Saturday, but it is hoped Andrew MacDonald will be ready by Tuesday’s game here against Vancouver. … Calgary’s Matthew Tkachuk was suspended for Saturday’s game for inciting a line brawl Wednesday in an 8-2 loss to Detroit. … Gostisbehere, of course, was part of the Union College team that beat Gaudreau’s Boston College team in the Frozen Four semifinal held here in 2014. Gaudreau had a goal and two assists and “Ghost” two assists in a game Union won, 5-4 – fending off a late B.C. comeback. Also in the building that night: Flyers coach Dave Hakstol, whose North Dakota squad fell to Minnesota in the semis.