The Montreal Canadiens got off to a great start and opened a 3-0 lead and eventually held on for a 3-2 win for their second straight victory in Western Canada against the Calgary Flames on Friday night.
The night almost got off to an early start for the Habs and their captain. Merely a minute after the puck dropped, Max Pacioretty went from the red line and straight through the Flames’ zone, pushing a backhand shot between Mike Smith’s pads. The goal, however, was overturned following a challenge thanks to Paul Byron being just offside entering the zone.
The first five minutes of the game was spent exchanging occasional decent chances, but neither team would score. To close off the first half of the period, the Canadiens began taking control, getting the better of shots on net, featuring a pair of beautiful chances each for Paul Byron and Brendan Gallagher.
The Habs would end up scoring the game’s first goal (again) thanks to great connections between Byron Froese, Alex Galchenyuk and Jordie Benn. After creating a controlled zone entry, Froese precisely passed it to Galchenyuk, who created a beautiful passing lane to Benn at the point. Benn’s shot deflected on Froese, who was screening Mike Smith. The goal was Froese’s first in a Habs uniform, with both Benn and Galchenyuk getting assists.
Calgary upped the pace after the goal, and they were aided when Andrew Shaw was given a goaltending interference penalty after Mike Smith fell on him behind his net. The call looks questionable, but that’s coming from the eyes of a Habs fan, watching known actor Mike Smith doing the Nestea plunge outside of his crease.
The score would remain 1-0 for Montreal at the end of the first period despite Calgary finishing the frame with a 56% share of shot attempts. The final count of shots on net was 11-10 in favour of the Habs.
The second period began evenly. A few rushes and a handful of shots between both clubs was all the action for the opening five minutes; this is not to say the game lacked intensity, rather it had intensity in bursts.
The Canadiens would double the lead, again thanks to help from a call-up, as Nicolas Deslauriers swatted a rebound past Calgary’s netminder. The play began with Byron Froese, who made space for himself before firing a shot at Smith. Deslauriers pounced on the rebound thanks to good positioning on the ice, netting his third goal in the first two games of this road trip. Assists went to Froese and Daniel Carr.
The trio of Froese Carr and Deslauriers now have a combined nine points in the last two games.
A few minutes after Deslauriers’ goal, Brendan Gallagher was gifted a breakaway opportunity but was stoned by Smith. The spritely forward was relentless on the puck and on the net all night, as is tradition.
Artturi Lehkonen returned to action, absent since a 2-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres on November 11. The Finnish phenom looked good in his first game back, skating well and gelling with Gallagher and Tomas Plekanec.
The second would end 2-0 and Montreal still edging the lead for shots 23-17. The only penalty called was against the Flames for too many men on the ice, and came with 34 seconds remaining on the clock.
The Habs had a short power play to start the third, the best chance came from former Flame Paul Byron, who also was in excellent form throughout the entire contest. The fourth line was on the ice after the power play and they generated multiple chances against Mike Smith.
Gallagher would be compensated for his hard work, as he scored his 14th goal of the season. Tomas Plekanec created a turnover at Calgary’s blue line and send Artturi Lehkonen in deep. The sophomore circled the net and spotted Gallagher on Smith’s far side. The cross-crease pass was on point, Gallagher probably had to work harder to be in the right place than to get the puck into the net.
The third goal certainly deflated the crowd in Calgary (most of it, anyways - horn guy was on point all night) and the game almost fell into a slowed pace, but with a bit more than ten minutes remaining, Micheal Ferland got the Flames on the board. Michael Frolik collected a great assist, and Sean Monahan really should have had one also, as he was responsible for the rush and setting up Ferland.
Ferland’s tally failed to rally another quick score by Calgary - in fact the Canadiens tightened their grips on the lead they still claimed and returned to playing offensively organized hockey.
Calgary, however, would get an advantage after Paul Byron connected with Johnny Gaudreau with a high stick, sending Byron to the sin bin for two or less. To increase their chances, the Flames pulled Smith to start the power play. Carey Price made two tough saves early on, before Matthew Tkachuk scored to bring the game to within a single goal.
The Flames ran what looked like a set play, as Johnny Gaudreau sent the puck to Mikael Baklund behind the net, who one-time-passed it to Tkachuk in the slot.
Calgary kept their net open, and with a minute left in the game, Max Pacioretty flung a puck from center ice and missed, but hadn’t crossed the red line, thus resulting in an icing call against Montreal.
After thinking the game was over, the teams had to line back up for a faceoff when Andrew Shaw took a last-second penalty and the clock was given a single second back.
The mistake would go unpunished, as the final whistle blew on a one-goal win for the Habs, who are now 2-1 on this road trip.