CALGARY — Still eight days away from playing games that matter, Johnny Gaudreau admits it would be nice to be able to fast forward to the start of the regular season.
And the Flames star left winger looks ready for it, scoring twice on Tuesday night as Calgary roared back from an early three-goal deficit to win 7-5 over the San Jose Sharks.
"It was great. Making plays. It felt good together," said Gaudreau, who played on a line with his longtime centre Sean Monahan and free-agent signing James Neal.
"It's hard to build chemistry with new lineups, so you have to keep battling through and keep working at it and keep going through practices and games, and I think it's getting better and better."
Calgary coach Bill Peters said he's focused on getting his club into game shape.
"Everybody is getting their team ready in their own way. Everyone's got different agendas," said Peters. "Monahan's line had some big minutes tonight. They've got to be game shape by the time we play in Vancouver."
While it's likely that Gaudreau and Monahan will be lined up beside each other come Oct. 3 when Calgary opens up the regular season at Rogers Arena, what isn't known is who will be on the right side.
Elias Lindholm, acquired in the off-season in a trade with Carolina, got the first opportunity, playing both games on that top unit during the 2018 China Games.
Meanwhile, Neal has been in that spot for the last two.
Peters was reluctant to reveal if either candidate had pulled away before hinting that it could be Lindholm that ends up back in that spot to start.
"To me, faceoffs are an important thing. They need to have the puck more," said Peters. "That might open up an opportunity for Lindholm to be on the right side and take faceoffs on the right side."
Lindholm, a right shot, plays centre or right wing compared to Neal, who is a left shot and primarily a winger.
Gaudreau's second goal of the night, on a wraparound with 10 seconds left in the second, capped off a big period for the Flames, who outscored the Sharks 4-1 to get the game back to even at 5-5.
Sam Bennett notched the game-winner at 5:33 of the third when his shot from the slot deflected off a Sharks stick and fluttered over the shoulder of goaltender Antoine Bibeau.
Sean Monahan, Matthew Tkachuk, Matthew Phillips and Austin Czarnik, with an empty-netter, also scored for the Flames.
San Jose, the far less-experienced team on this night, got goals from Barclay Goodrow, Rourke Chartier, Lukas Radil, Maxim Letunov and Alexander Chmelevski. The Sharks left their 11 highest-paid players back home, including newcomer Erik Karlsson, who has yet to suit up for his first game.
Goodrow opened the scoring at 11:07, slipping the puck through the legs of David Rittich on a breakaway.
Things unravelled from there for the 26-year-old Czech goaltender. He would surrender goals on three straight shots and Calgary gave up four goals on six shots in a span of just over five minutes as San Jose opened up a 4-1 lead.
In a half game each, Rittich stopped 14 of 18 shots while Jon Gillies, who he is up against for the team's back-up job, was beaten just once on 11 shots.
At the other end, Aaron Dell stopped 16 of 20 shots and Bibeau turned aside seven of nine shots.
Notes: The two teams meet again in San Jose on Thursday.
Darren Haynes, The Canadian Press