Heading into the contest Thursday night, both Montreal and Calgary were looking to get back into the win column after defeats earlier in the week. Calgary fell in overtime the night before to the Maple Leafs, despite a relentless attack against Frederik Andersen. Montreal dropped a 4-3 decision to the St. Louis Blues on Tuesday, where the team pushed back well against a tough opponent, but couldn’t overcome a Brayden Schenn hat trick.
Mike Smith got the night off, meaning David Rittich was in net for the Flames, while the unflappable Carey Price started for Montreal. Jonathan Drouin once again sat out with an ailment while Jakub Jerabek drew in for Victor Mete. For the Flames, pest extraordinaire Matthew Tkachuk missed the game due to his suspension for spearing Matt Martin in the previous game. The ageless wonder Jaromir Jagr was absent as he continues to deal with a nagging injury.
The Habs nearly jumped out to a 1-0 lead just moments into the game, when a little chip play allowed Tomas Plekanec in behind the Flames defence. Rittich was up to the task, and got his shoulder on the puck to push it away from the net, averting an early disaster.
A good early push by Montreal was cancelled out when a defensive miscue gave Calgary a lead less than seven minutes in. A defensive-zone draw led to a scramble around the net involving Micheal Ferland. A shot off of Carey Price’s pads fell to Sean Monahan, who threw the puck on net and off a sprawling Price for the opening goal.
Then, the Habs came back. Led by the new-look fourth line, they managed to knot the game up shortly thereafter. Nicolas Deslauriers got the puck to Byron Froese who backhanded it around the back of the net. From there Daniel Carr collected it, looked for a pass, and then flicked a ridiculous backhand shot off of Rittich and in to tie the game up.
It was a relatively quiet end to the opening 20 minutes following a short outburst of goals. A Dougie Hamilton penalty failed to yield a scoring chance for Montreal, though it did offer a bit of excitement for the home fans as Max Pacioretty leveled Mark Giordano while dumping the puck into the zone.
Pacioretty gets the puck in, then lands a major hit on Giordano pic.twitter.com/bvW3bLnErn— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) December 8, 2017
Much like the first period, the second was quiet in terms of offensive chances, as both sides played a tight defensive game through 40 minutes. An early interference penalty by Jordie Benn gave the Flames a chance to put themselves ahead once more. The Canadiens penalty-killers continued their great run of form however, forcing the Flames into multiple icings, and surrendering good short-handed chances against.
From there the Canadiens captain made his impact felt on the scoresheet, after his physical impression in the first. Jeff Petry brought the puck into the Calgary zone, and found Pacioretty streaking in as well. Pacioretty worked toward the boards and flung a backhand shot to the net, and Phillip Danault got his stick on the shot and tipped the puck over Rittich for his fifth goal of the year to put Montreal in the lead once more.
Even up a goal, the Canadiens continued to press the Flames, and didn’t give up many high-danger chances against. Garnet Hathaway learned the hard way too about trying to enter the Canadiens zone, after he broke in towards David Schlemko, and all he got for his troubles was a nearly flawless hip check, losing possession of the puck.
Unlike the first two periods, the final 20 saw the wheels fall off for the Habs, partially of their own doing, and partially due to rules that seem to change on a game-to-game basis. For the first quarter of the period the Habs did well to keep the chances to the outside and make things easy on Price. In fact Johhny Gaudreau had the only semi-threatening shot through seven minutes, and it was easily gloved down.
Then a loose puck in front of the net led to a mass of bodies piling around the Canadiens netminder, and when all was said and done, Hathaway harpooned to puck past Price.
Initially the whistle was blown to signal the play dead, and was ruled no goal due to incidental contact with the goalie. The Flames naturally challenged, and in a bit of a surprise, the call was overturned and the game was tied.
From there things got worse for Montreal. Andrew Shaw took an extremely ill-timed tripping penalty, and while it was being killed off, Danault was boxed for a delay of game infraction. The suddenly stingy Canadiens penalty kill kept the Flames off the board with a gutsy display. It seemed like Montreal had all the momentum on their side and would most certainly end the game with a victory.
Instead the game went into overtime, and it was there that Montreal once again failed to capture both points in a crucial game. A decent rush into the zone by Pacioretty and Danault yielded a decent chance against Rittich. Then the puck went in the opposite direction, and with Danault caught behind the play he couldn’t catch up to pick up Sean Monahan, who registered his second goal of the night, the game-winner that earned the Flames a 3-2 victory.
- I thought we were past this point already, but some sort of misguided message is being sent to Alex Galchenyuk once again. The surging forward played the least on the team by a fair margin. It’s one thing if Daniel Carr, who has been red hot gets an extra shift now and again; it’s another when Byron Froese is playing more than arguably your most dynamic winger. There’s a time for teaching a lesson, but this game was not that moment. Galchenyuk’s play has been much improved as of late, and benching him to play grinders isn’t a good idea for long-term success.
- The penalty kill came up massive last night, and has been extremely good during their current run. Much of that is due to Carey Price being Carey Price, but its improvement is doing wonders for the Habs’ chances of winning. If it can continue to stay afloat like it is now, things are going to improve on the scoreboard as well.
- The Canadiens and Oilers face off on Saturday night, and neither side has lived up to its lofty expectations, despite plenty of promising flashes. After the game against Edmonton there’s a lengthy break in the schedule between games, so winning is paramount. Heading into a break on a skid can lead to some rash decision-making, while going in on a convincing win might allow the team’s outlook to be viewed more clearly.