PENTICTON, BC -- It didn’t take Johnny Gaudreau long…again.
After scoring in his NHL debut five months ago, the 5-foot-9, 160-pound 21-year-old made it two-for-two while donning a Calgary Flames jersey in helping turn a 4-2 deficit into a 6-4 win over the Winnipeg Jets at the Young Stars Classic on Friday.
“It was great to get out there for the first skate with the guys,” Gaudreau said. “I think we looked a little shaky in the first period but all teams are going to look shaky the first time together. The second and third period we really played really well as a whole. I think we did a really good job.”
Trailing 4-2, Gaudreau hopped over the boards and scooped up a loose puck at the Winnipeg blue line before dancing around Jets defender Nikolas Brouillard and putting a backhand off the crossbar and in to cut Calgary’s deficit to one at 10:52 of the second period.
“[Morgan Klimchuk] hopped off the ice there,” Gaudreau said. “A lot of credit to him just hopping off and letting me get a little breakaway. I just stuck it between a guy’s legs and took a little shot on net. Luckily it went in.
“I saw the little scrum next to our bench and saw a puck pop out as I was getting off the bench. I just tried to get it to the net. It was a nice little move there and I just tried to get it in the net.
“Hopefully I can keep going.”
Watching Gaudreau work is nothing new to Boston College teammate Bill Arnold.
“I’d call it just another day but it really wouldn’t do it justice,” said Arnold, whose NHL debut came alongside Gaudreau in April. “There’s not a lot of people who can do what he did on that goal. It’s just one of those things. When he steps on the ice, good day or bad day, he’s a threat to score all the time. He can pull something out of his hat just like that. It’s really fun to watch.”
Gaudreau’s goal was one of four consecutive markers to give the Flames a 1-0 record at the Young Stars Classic in Penticton.
“I think it changed the way the game was played, for sure,” coach Ryan Huska said. “It brought our bench back to life. It was a nice goal. He’s a special player for sure. I think at that point, we gained some momentum and I thought we took over from there.”
Down one, Markus Granlund took a couple whacks at a John Ramage rebound before beating Jets starting goaltender Connor Hellebuyck to even the score 4-4 with 1:19 remaining in the middle frame.
With an odd-man rush six minutes into the third, the Flames capitalized again. Granlund’s initial shot was stopped by Hellebuyck, but Michael Ferland stepped into the rebound to put Calgary up 5-4.
“I saw [Granlund] coming up and I was hoping it was coming for a rebound,” Ferland said. “It did, so it was nice to get that one.”
The goal was an important one for Ferland, who was playing his first game since Dec. 12, 2013 after sustaining a knee injury that put an end to the 2013-14 season after just 25 games.
“I didn’t feel the way I wanted to feel,” Ferland admitted. “I’ve still got a lot of work to do if I want to make this hockey club. It was just nice to be back out there. It felt good to be out there with the guys.”
Josh Jooris, with his second of the night, capped the comeback with an empty net goal with just 1.2 seconds remaining in regulation.
Though the Flames finished fast, the Jets started strong in the opening frame.
With just 21.9 seconds remaining in the period, Austen Brassard batted a cross crease feed from Chase Balisy behind Flames starter Joni Ortio to put the Jets up 1-0. The goal came on Winnipeg’s 12th shot of the period.
Near the midway mark of the first, Kenny Agostino stripped Brenden Kitchton of the puck behind the Winnipeg net and fed Jooris in the slot, who was stopped by Hellebuyck. A shift prior to Brassard’s goal, Jooris had another opportunity to open the scoring but was again thwarted by the Winnipeg goaltender.
Jooris got his revenge 3:15 into the second period, poking his first of the tournament behind Hellebuyck to tie the game 1-1.
Back-to-back shots just 96 seconds apart from Nikolaj Ehlers and Jimmy Lodge found the crossbar and fell in behind Ortio to give Winnipeg a 3-1 lead, but Ramage pulled the Flames back to within one at 9:04 after bouncing a wrist shot from the point off a Jets defender and in.
It took just 28 seconds for the Jets to restore their two-goal cushion after Lodge started a three-way passing play that featured Alex Blomqvist and was finished by Ben Walker’s redirect behind Ortio.
It was the last puck that would get behind Ortio, who made 22 saves for the win.