CALGARY – Sean Monahan scores. Calgary Flames win. Repeat.
In what’s quickly becoming a familiar script, the 18-year-old rookie sensation was at it again Friday night scoring the game-winner with 2:43 left in the third period to lead Calgary to a 3-2 victory over the New Jersey Devils.
The sixth overall pick in the 2013 NHL draft, Monahan has had a dream start to his pro career with goals in four straight games.
“That’s the biggest one yet,” said Monahan, who turns 19 on Saturday. “It won us the game there and that’s huge. We want to win as many games as we can right now, we want to have a good start and that’s really big for our team right now.”
Monahan also has a five-game points streak (four goals, two assists), which is the longest for a Flames rookie since 31-year-old Sergei Makarov had points in seven straight games to begin his NHL career in 1989-90, which was before the league re-wrote the rules around rookie eligibility.
“I’ve got to give a lot of credit to my linemates and the players I’m playing with,” said Monahan, who is still eligible to return to OHL’s Ottawa 67’s although the likeliness of that happening seems to decrease with every passing game.
“They’re making it easy on me, putting the pucks right on my tape and in good position and fortunately enough, I’m putting them in the back of the net.”
The game-winner was a prime example of that.
Sven Baertschi made a hit along the side boards, grabbed the loose puck and zipped a perfect pass to Monahan, who steered it behind Marty Brodeur. The 41-year-old Devils goaltender already had 29 NHL wins when Monahan was born.
“As soon as I got the puck, I was looking towards the net. I saw Jiri (Hudler) but then I saw (Monahan) back door,” said Baertschi. “We were just looking at each other and I was like ‘OK, there’s only one thing I have to do,’ get that puck right to him and there was only one stick in the way, so I passed it as hard as I could.”
It is the first time since the Flames moved to Calgary in 1980 that the team has taken at least one point in each of its first five games.
“We feel good but there are no stats right now that allows us to sit on those five games. We have 82 to play. There is still lots of hockey to be played,” said Flames coach Bob Hartley.
Dennis Wideman and Mark Giordano also scored for Calgary (3-0-2). Hudler had two assists to extend his points streak to five games. The Flames now depart on a five-game road trip that begins Wednesday in Anaheim.
“We have to have a big road trip. We’re playing some of the best teams in the league,” said Giordano. “You’re not going to beat those teams if you don’t play the right way. We’re looking forward to it but we’ve got to bring the juice.”
Adam Henrique and Dainius Zubrus scored for New Jersey (0-2-3). The Devils are 0-1-2 with two stops to go on their five-game road trip. They visit Winnipeg on Sunday.
On the heels of a stretch that included two shootout losses and an overtime loss, it was another tough defeat.
“Obviously we want to get wins and we’re not getting them, but the last thing we need to do is really get frustrated or over-analyze it,” said Devils captain Bryce Salvador.
Jaromir Jagr said they just have to keep their chins up and keep going.
“We just made some mistakes and it cost us,” said Jagr. “We had the lead every game except the first game against the Penguins. We’ve got to learn to play with the lead.”
New Jersey poured on the pressure in one stretch in the third when the game was tied 2-2. But despite Joey MacDonald losing his stick, the Devils were unable to score with Flames’ bodies diving in front of shots all over.
“We had it for a minute and a half but they were able to block everything,” said Jagr.
Despite his frustration, Jagr still managed to mix in some humour as he reflected on the chances that got away in that one frenzied scramble.
“They’re smart, huh. They’re tired so they laid down,” Jagr said. “Everybody does it, so do you. When you’re tired, you go sleep. They went down but we couldn’t lift the puck up. We had so many chances.”
Already ahead 2-1 late in the second period, New Jersey appeared to have scored again when Ryan Clowe’s slapshot off the wing bounced up in the air off MacDonald and into the net. However, the goal was waved off and Devils winger Michael Ryder, who had gone hard to the net for the rebound, was sent off for goalie interference.
Calgary had its best prolonged pressure of the game on the ensuing power play, controlling the puck in the Devils’ zone for the entire man advantage. After several close changes, Giordano eventually poked a backhand into the net to tie it 2-2.
Notes: Calgary’s Lee Stempniak had his four-game points streaks snapped. … David Jones (upper body) did not play. He has been placed on injured reserve and is considered week-to-week. Tim Jackman made his season debut in his place. … Monahan turns 19 on Saturday. … New Jersey’s Jacob Josefson made his season debut after being a healthy scratch the first four games. He was inserted for Andrei Loktionov.