CALGARY — Reunited with some familiar linemates, Johnny Gaudreau felt the chemistry immediately.
Skating alongside Elias Lindholm and Matthew Tkachuk, Gaudreau scored his first goal of the pre-season and added an assist Friday for the Calgary Flames in a 4-1 pre-season win over the Vancouver Canucks.
Gaudreau had been skating with longtime linemate Sean Monahan and Andrew Mangiapane since training camp began.
When Flames coach Darryl Sutter opted to give Blake Coleman the night off, he shifted Gaudreau onto a line with Lindholm and Tkachuk. The trio created a lot of chances.
“I played with them for a while last year and obviously have a lot of chemistry with (Monahan),” Gaudreau said.
“Wherever I end up, you got to try and create chemistry as quick as possible before the regular season starts and then get off on the right foot in the regular season.”
Gaudreau totalled 99 points in his last full 82-game season in 2018-19.
He's averaged less than a point per game each of his last two seasons since then.
Gaudreau is entering the final season of his six-year contract.
“Johnny was really good tonight,” said Sutter. “With the line-up they had, he took advantage.”
Sutter noted it was less of an experiment and more of a situation where he wanted to rest Coleman, who played into July to win the Stanley Cup with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
“Blake Coleman played 23 games last spring and I'm not playing him unless we have to. We'll get him ready for the last two or three (pre-season games),” Sutter said.
“He played more games in the playoffs than a lot of the guys who are trying to make our team did the whole year.”
Tkachuk also had a goal and an assist in Calgary's first win of the pre-season.
Mikael Backlund and Brett Ritchie, into an empty net, rounded out the scoring.
The Flames started the pre-season 0-2-1
Jonah Gadjovich scored the lone goal for the Canucks, who dropped to 1-2-0.
“We deserved to lose tonight,” said Vancouver coach Travis Green. “I just didn't think we had a very good game. We didn't have a lot of good hockey players.”
Flames goaltender Jacob Markstrom got his first pre-season start and turned aside 14 of 15 shots over two periods. Dustin Wolf made seven saves in the third.
Vancouver's Thatcher Demko went the distance in his first pre-season appearance and stopped 27 shots.
Gaudreau scored the game's first goal at 15:18 of the first period, completing a slick tic-tac-toe cross-ice passing sequence with Lindholm and Tkachuk.
Gaudreau capped it off neatly by firing a shot under the cross bar as Demko lunged across the crease.
It was Gaudreau's first goal in front of the home fans at the Saddledome since March 6, 2020.
“It was a lot of fun,” Gaudreau said. “It's been a long time and we get so much energy from them.
"To get them back into the rink, it's been awesome.”
Calgary led 2-0 at 3:30 of the second period on Backlund's second pre-season goal.
The sequence began with a heavy hit by Flames defenceman Nikita Zadorov, who lowered the shoulder on Jason Dickinson as he tried to skate the puck out of the Canucks' end.
While Luke Schenn and Zack MacEwen immediately came to over to defend Dickinson, play continued and Backlund made the most of the open ice by getting the loose puck and firing a shot past Demko.
Gadjovich's deflection two minutes later cut the lead in half, but Tkachuk restored the two-goal cushion 6:54 into the third.
He neatly deflected Connor Mackey's centering pass over Demko's shoulder. Gaudreau had the second assist.
Notes: Emilio Pettersen drew into the lineup when Coleman was removed . . . The Flames are in Kent, Washington on Saturday to face the expansion Seattle Kraken..
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 1, 2021.
The Canadian Press