2:34 AM ET
Ryan S. ClarkNHL reporter
- Ryan S. Clark is an NHL reporter for ESPN.
Johnny Gaudreau had a penalty shot and two assists, and he performed a job in his new staff forcing his previous one into time beyond regulation.
However his first sport again in Calgary after leaving to signal with the Columbus Blue Jackets in free company ended with Gaudreau going through stress, dropping his stability after a collision and watching Dillon Dube rating the successful one-timer within the Flames‘ 4-3 overtime victory Monday on the Scotiabank Saddledome.
“The primary time again [brought] plenty of feelings,” Gaudreau advised reporters after the sport. “A little bit nervous earlier than the sport began however I used to be excited to be again.”
Gaudreau’s night time might be seen by his total efficiency and the spectacle surrounding his return.
Calgary had a 2-0 lead when Columbus ultimately drew degree halfway by way of the second interval. Gaudreau, who logged a team-high 22:54 in ice time, arrange the primary objective with a cross-ice move for Kirill Marchenko with 10:56 left.
The Blue Jackets tied it at 2 lower than a minute later with Gaudreau organising one other cross-ice move that led to Patrik Laine scoring on a one-timer with 10:08 remaining.
Gaudreau was additionally on the ice for the Jackets’ tying objective simply lower than 5 minutes into the third interval.
Gaudreau performed the ultimate shift of regulation and within the remaining shift of time beyond regulation earlier than his second shift in the end ended with him colliding with Noah Hanifin, who pressured the turnover that led to Andrew Mangiapane organising Dube’s sport winner.
Getting back from a two-goal deficit solely to be on the heart of occasions that led to the successful objective was simply a part of what made Gaudreau’s first sport again in Calgary since leaving the Flames enthralling.
Gaudreau and the Blue Jackets have been serenaded with boos after they took the ice earlier than the nationwide anthems. He began the sport on a line with Laine and Jack Roslovic earlier than he was booed upon his first contact.
His second shift was marked by the cacophony of “JOHN-NY! JOHN-NY! JOHN-NY!” whereas his subsequent shift confirmed what makes him one of many league’s most harmful gamers. The Flames have been within the Blue Jackets’ zone when an errant move from MacKenzie Weegar was picked off by Gaudreau, who was then hooked by Chris Tanev earlier than being awarded a penalty shot.
Boos continued to cascade all through the Saddledome as Gaudreau gathered the puck and closed in on the web solely to have his shot go extensive over Dan Vladar‘s glove with 14:46 left within the first interval. Gaudreau took benefit of one other Flames miscue on his fourth shift when he gained management of the puck, sped down the left wing and fired a slap shot that went off Vladar’s masks and into the group.
The booing continued firstly of his tribute video, however Gaudreau obtained a standing ovation earlier than the cameras reduce to him on the video board. Gaudreau, who was on the bench, stood up and thanked the followers by waving at them.
Then, they went again to booing him for the remainder of the night.
“For probably the most half, it felt good to see everybody standing up and clapping their fingers and cheering for me,” Gaudreau stated. “After which 5 seconds after, begin their booing once more. It is what I anticipated coming right here. It is a terrific fan base, they usually’re passionate followers. I cherished it. It was a particular night time for me.”
Stated Dube: “I believe that simply exhibits how good of a participant he was and the way necessary he was for this group, as a result of you do not get a response like that in case you’re not that necessary.”
Gaudreau’s return to Calgary got here with the anticipated reactions from a participant’s first sport again in his former residence together with a couple of distinctive gadgets. At morning skate, a couple of of the Blue Jackets jokingly booed Gaudreau, who laughed and smiled, when he touched the puck as a approach of “getting ready him” for the sport.
Then, in fact, there have been the indicators. One signal learn, “I am nonetheless your #1 fan Johnny Gaudreau” adopted by a suggestion to trade Gaudreau’s stick for some Skittles. One other signal learn, “We drove 3 HRS simply to boo Gaudreau.”
There have been additionally followers who bought artistic with their Gaudreau sweaters, with one in all them having a makeshift “BOODREAU” nameplate.
“For probably the most half, it felt good to see everybody standing up and clapping their fingers and cheering for me. After which 5 seconds after, begin their booing once more. It is what I anticipated coming right here. It is a terrific fan base they usually’re passionate followers. I cherished it. It was a particular night time for me.”
“We knew it was going to be that form of setting. Johnny had a wonderful sport,” Blue Jackets coach Brad Larsen stated.
Earlier than he was the thing of their scorn, Gaudreau was one of many beloved faces of the franchise. He was a fourth-round decide in 2011 who got here with considerations about being a smaller participant. He shook off these considerations by being top-of-the-line gamers within the collegiate sport, successful the Hobey Baker Award in his junior season at Boston School.
He left BC after three seasons and scored 20 objectives together with 64 factors in his first full skilled season, which led to him being named an NHL All-Star and to the All-Rookie staff. It was the primary of six All-Star appearances he made with the Flames.
A 3-time 30-goal scorer, Gaudreau’s remaining season in Calgary was the strongest of his profession. He completed with profession highs in objectives (40), assists (75) and factors (115) whereas additionally scoring 9 game-winning objectives. It set the stage for Gaudreau’s unrestricted free company being one of many extra distinguished tales of the offseason.
The Flames have been already getting ready for all times with out pending restricted free agent winger Matthew Tkachuk, who advised them he would not signal a long-term extension, which led to him being traded to the Florida Panthers. The expectation surrounding Gaudreau’s free company saga was that it may have probably ended with him signing someplace nearer to his hometown of Carneys Level Township, New Jersey, throughout the Delaware River from Philadelphia.
As a substitute of signing with the cap-strapped Philadelphia Flyers or the New Jersey Devils, Gaudreau surprisingly determined to signal with the Blue Jackets on a seven-year contract carrying a $9.75 million annual common worth.
Life with out Gaudreau and Tkachuk created questions on how the Flames would rating. Discovering constant offensive manufacturing stays a problem for a staff that sits within the remaining Western Convention wild-card spot by two factors over the defending Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche, who’ve three video games in hand.
As for the Blue Jackets, their first season with Gaudreau has not gone to plan. Key gamers, reminiscent of All-Star ahead Jakub Voracek and two-time All-Star defenseman Zach Werenski, sustained long-term accidents. Werenski is on long-term injured reserve, whereas Voracek is one in all 5 Blue Jackets on the IR.
Even with the time beyond regulation level, the Blue Jackets are final within the Jap Convention and tied with the Anaheim Ducks for the fewest factors within the NHL. However it additionally means they’re among the many most notable contenders for the draft lottery and projected No. 1 decide Connor Bedard.
“I used to be drafted in 2011. I used to be a part of this group for 11, 12 years,” Gaudreau stated. “They gave me an infinite quantity of help, gave our staff an infinite quantity of help, and I need to thank all of them for being nice followers and welcoming me of their metropolis and treating me effectively — me, and my household, rather well.”