2. The Calgary Flames versus the Los Angeles Kings
For the second-best game of this era of Flames hockey, we go back to the start in 2014-15. During that season, the Flames were in their first playoff race since 2008-09, and the team was directly competing with the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings for one of the playoff spots in the Western Conference. With the emergence of Gaudreau in his rookie season and his chemistry with linemates Monahan and Jiri Hudler, the Flames had an electrifying team to watch for the first time in six seasons.
In the penultimate game of the regular season, the Flames hosted the Kings at the Saddledome. If the Flames won the game, they would clinch a playoff spot and knock out the defending Cup champions in the process. Gaudreau opened the scoring in the first period, with Hudler adding his own tally to give the Flames a 2-0 lead.
After a scoreless second, the Kings finally answered early in the third period with a goal from Jordan Nolan. The Flames held on to force the Kings to pull goaltender Jonathan Quick at the end of the period. Hudler added his second goal, an empty netter at 19:10, to seal the game.
“What an amazing feeling,” said Hudler after the game. “After we scored that empty-netter, the building was electric.”
Gaudreau echoed that sentiment, “We have a skilled team here, and I knew coming in we had a special group. It just shows tonight.”
Jonas Hiller was in net for the Flames stopping 33 of 34 shots. “To be able to beat the defending Stanley Cup champions to make the playoffs makes it even more special,” said the former goaltender. “I’m happy for the team. I’m happy for all of Calgary.”
1. The Calgary Flames versus the Vancouver Canucks.
The best game of the Gaudreau-era came shortly after the previous one. For their first playoff matchup in six years, the Flames drew the Vancouver Canucks in the opening round. The Flames jumped to a 3-1 series lead, with the Canucks winning at home to force a Game 6 in Calgary.
The Saddledome was buzzing as the C of Red could see the finish line leading to their first playoff series win since 2004. However, Vancouver tried their best early to silence the crowd. Hiller, who had started every game of the series to that point, let in two goals on three shots. He was promptly replaced by Karri Ramo, who let in another goal to give the Canucks a 3-0 lead in the first nine minutes.
The Flames began to mount a comeback, as they did so many times that season. Michael Ferland scored late in the first, with Gaudreau and Monahan adding their own markers early in the second. The Canucks regained the lead towards the end of the period, but it would be their final lead of the game.
Six minutes into the final frame, Hudler scored on the powerplay. With five minutes left, Matt Stajan scored the first playoff goal of his career, sending the C of Red into pandemonium. Former head coach of the Flames Bob Hartley noted, “We had to yell the line changes in the third period once we took the lead — we couldn’t communicate.”
The Flames would add two empty-net goals to win the game 7-4 and the series with it. The series victory was the Flames first since their 2004 run to the Stanley Cup final, and the second time the team won a series since 1989.
The team noted how much of an impact the fans had on the game. Hartley said, “I’ve never seen this. I’ve been in great markets. I remember winning the Stanley Cup in Colorado… to see every fan [in Calgary] with the Flaming C, wearing it proudly — you almost feel like they’re on the bench, will you.”
Gaudreau stated after the game, “It’s hard to lose games when you’ve got people cheering like that for you every game.”
Hopefully, the Flames can add more memorable moments as the Johnny Gaudreau-era continues in 2020-21.