On milestone-filled night, Flames show support for healthy scratch Monahan

Milestone Night at the Scotiabank Saddledome put the Calgary Flames and several of its players in elite company Friday.

It also included a touching show of support for long-time Flames fixture Sean Monahan, who sat for the very first time as a healthy scratch.

Shortly after Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk both hit the 30-goal mark in a second-period flurry that led to a 4-2 win over Arizona, Gaudreau gave a nod to his former linemate and pal during an intermission interview with Sportsnet’s Ryan Leslie.

“We’ve got a lot of guys who can score,” said Gaudreau, before adding, “both in and out of the lineup.”

Classy, ​​and worth mentioning due to the tremendous respect everyone in the Flames organization has for the sniper-turned-fourth-liner whose struggles of late have been well-documented.

Gaudreau became the sixth player from the 2011 draft to hit the 200-goal mark, finishing a 2-on-0 with one of his trademark, top-shelf jobbies to put the Flames up 3-0 in a second period that saw him reunited with Tkachuk and Elias Lindholm.

The reunion paid instant dividends as the league’s most potent trio combined for all three goals, marking the first time since 1993-94 four Flames eclipsed the 30-goal mark, including Joe Nieuwendyk, Theo Fleury, Gary Roberts and Kent Nilsson.

No other NHL team has more than two 30-goal men so far this season, reminding people just how potent and deep this Calgary club is this season.

“At the beginning of the year the comments were, ‘who is going to score?’ but a little change in mentality in having zone time and shot volume you’ve heard so many times allowed them to have success early, and when really skilled guys have success early things really snowball in their direction,” said assistant coach Ryan Huska of the Flames big four, which includes third-liner Andrew Mangiapane.

“When we’ve needed a big goal that line scored it. When it’s a big game they’ve found a way to put together a big game. They do an excellent job together, reading off one another. The chemistry those guys have is fun to watch.”

Sure was Friday, after a scoreless first period in which neither team generated many chances, prompting Darryl Sutter to end his week-long experiment with Tkachuk on the second line.

They instantly returned to the Globetrotting-type passing that saw Tkachuk convert a beautiful give and go with Gaudreau 33 seconds into the period before Lindholm completed a stellar passing play between the three on the power play three minutes later.

Then Gaudreau scored his 200th.

“I was just excited I scored, it made it a three-goal lead there,” shrugged the 28-year-old when asked about the career mark.

“Lot of excitement, but just another goal for me.”

Not just another season though, as Gaudreau’s three-point night moved him within three points of third place in the NHL scoring race, followed by Tkachuk, whose two points have him in eighth.

Yes, eighth.

Up until the final seconds of the second period it appeared Jacob Markstrom might challenge another milestone, as the veteran netminder is stuck one short of Miikka Kiprusoff’s season shutout franchise record of 10.

Michael Carcone’s late goal ruined that thought, but Markstrom was steady, making 16 saves to rebound from one of his only questionable outings of the year three nights earlier when he let in two weak goals in a 4-3 loss to San Jose.

Rasmus Andersson channeled his inner Cale Makar early in the third period with a solo effort that saw him corral the puck at centre, split two defenders at the blue line and finish a move around Karel Vejmelka that put the hosts up 4-1.

Believe it or not, the evening marked the third time in franchise history two lads have scored their 30th in the same game.

It happened Feb. 22, 1981 when Kent Nilsson and Willi Plett pulled the trick, followed by Lanny McDonald and Kevin Lavallee on Mar. 20, 1982.

After years as Gaudreau’s top line centre, Monahan’s lengthy list of injuries appear to have caught up to him as he struggles to fill the fourth-line role he’s been given, prompting Sutter to say he needed to give the veteran some rest.

“He’s been through a lot these last three or four years,” said Gaudreau of his pal, who attended his wedding last summer.

“Every summer I feel like he’s been through a major surgery. He’s been given a different role this year, so it’s tough. But when he gets in the lineup or he’s at practice he’s always positive, always smiling. Great teammate, great leader. He’s a guy I want on my team every day of the week.”

Next up are the Oilers, who watched from their hotel rooms in Calgary ahead of Saturday’s fourth and final Battle of Alberta this season.

That is, unless they meet again this spring.

The Flames have made plenty of headlines the last nine weeks as the NHL’s hottest team, but a quick peek at the standings show the Oilers quietly accumulating the second-most points in that span.

And now they have all their regulars back in the lineup, along with a few trade deadline additions.

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