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Canadiens vs. Flames 5 Takeaways: Burned by refs, Habs lose to Flames

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The Canadiens played two-thirds of a good game and escaped with a single point. A regulation win slipped away with a controversial officiating decision.

NHL: Calgary Flames at Montreal Canadiens Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

1. The Habs are finding ways to bounce back.

On Thursday night, the Canadiens fell behind the Flames and found a way to hold on tight, push back and tie things up. Daniel Carr’s goal signaled the fifth occasion in the last five games that the Habs have successfully tied the game when trailing.

Earlier this year, the Habs showed a weakness for allowing goals in bunches and eventually their bad luck and poor play led to lackluster effort when playing from behind. On the team’s recent five-game winning streak, Montreal didn’t always take an early lead and play ahead the whole game, they’ve had to show some grit and determination to get it done.

The home game against the St. Louis Blues was perhaps the best example, where the Habs twice tied the game up before ultimately losing to one of the best teams in the league. While Calgary isn’t in the same stratosphere as St. Louis, the Canadiens once again found a way to stay in the game and even things up.

Despite back-to-back losses, Montreal has shown the ability to stay in a game and overcome deficits. The team’s newfound ability to combat in-game adversity could come in handy should the Habs get into the playoffs.

2. Daniel Carr is good at hockey.

With the game-tying goal in the first period, Daniel Carr recorded his second of the year, and his sixth point in four NHL games this season. Carr was leading the Laval Rocket in scoring when he was recalled prior to the November 30 game against the Detroit Red Wings.

Carr has produced points in all four games he’s played in this season. Last year, in 33 games, the Sherwood Park native scored twice and added seven assists for nine points. Nothing to write home about, really, except that one must remember Carr played an average of just a few seconds more than 10 minutes per game.

Two seasons ago, Carr had nine points in but 23 games, including six goals. When Daniel Carr was sent to the AHL in January 2016, he was among Montreal’s top goal producers per sixty minutes played.

3. Difficult choices are ahead for the Habs, and that’s ok.

Along with Daniel Carr, who is once again doing enough to warrant a longer look in the NHL, other young players who have been recalled from the Laval Rocket are playing well too, which will leave Claude Julien and Marc Bergevin with some difficult choices once injured players return to the lineup.

The main two injured players to watch are Jonathan Drouin and Artturi Lehkonen. Both are obviously NHL players and their respective returns will require the jumbling of the current lineup. Daniel Carr, Nicolas Deslauriers, Byron Froese and Jacob de la Rose are the four players most likely to be scratched or sent down.

Nicolas Deslauriers has already played his 10th game, meaning he is now waiver-eligible should the Habs want to send him to Laval. De la Rose has played 21 games and is the least likely to have to step aside. Byron Froese has also exhausted his waiver-free timeline and Carr's play should really remove him from consideration but even his timeline is coming to an end. He could only play six more games or be up 22 more days before requiring waivers again.

Either way it shakes out, there are tough choices ahead for the Canadiens’ brass, and that’s a good thing.

4. Blame the refs. Actually don’t. OK, fine - blame the refs... but don’t.

The Canadiens should have won on Thursday night. They controlled play up until the Flames’ second goal was allowed. The Habs outshot and outplayed Calgary for two and a half periods and their momentum was erased by a successful coach’s challenge by Glen Gulutzan.

After a bungled play in Carey Price’s crease, multiple Flames’ players crashed the net and poked a loose puck into the net. The play was initially ruled a no-goal, and a scrum by all four officials confirmed the call on the ice.

Gulutzan challenged the call and the decision was overturned after video review. While it’s true the puck was not isolated in Price’s glove or pads, the prodding by Calgary players, which inevitably pushed the netminder into his own net, seemed to be a clear-cut case of goaltender interference.

The goal eliminated Montreal’s grasp on the game, a game which they would go on to lose. It’s very easy to look back at the moment that defined the game’s outcome and project anger at the referees, but the point is that the Habs couldn’t extend their one-goal lead before.

It’s a narrative that happens often in sports, to blame the refs, but officials are subject to human error, as are players, as are you and me. The Canadiens still had plenty of chances to win the game.

5. Sean Monahan: bonafide Habs killer.

Sean Monahan scored twice on Thursday, including the game winner in overtime. In nine career games against the Canadiens, Monahan has amassed an impressive six goals and five assists for 11 points.

It’s a good thing the Flames and Habs only play one another twice a year (unless they should meet in the Stanley Cup finals again) because Sean Monahan is a dangerous player when he’s up against the bleu-blanc-rouge.

His pace of more than a point per game against Montreal is strong enough that should he hit the trade market, Marc Bergevin may be well-served to inquire about the cost, lest Monahan end up playing for a division rival.