With less than 24 hours having passed after Montreal’s lopsided domination of the Vancouver Canucks, the team had to prepare for an entirely new challenge. The Calgary Flames were a different team from the last time the two sides met, having spiraled just as badly as Montreal had, and finally firing head coach Geoff Ward. What this meant was the return of Darryl Sutter behind the bench, and a new philosophy for the Habs to battle against.
Montreal was without Ben Chiarot, who had returned to Montreal to get a specialist’s opinion on his broken hand, sustained in a fight against J.T. Miller on Wednesday. In his place on Thursday was Victor Mete, while Carey Price ceded the net to Jake Allen on the second half of this back-to-back.
Despite Calgary having four days’ rest between games, and the Habs coming off a game the previous night, the Flames didn’t make much of an impact in Montreal’s zone in the opening minutes. On the other hand, the Canadiens also failed to do anything to threaten Jacob Markstrom at the other end of the ice either, with just five shots between the two sides through nearly eight minutes of play.
Calgary then took control of the puck, cycling back into the Montreal zone and forcing the Habs to meekly dump pucks out into the neutral zone over and over again. Despite owning the puck for several minutes, the Flames failed to solve Allen, and allowed Montreal to get their legs underneath them.
Once that happened, Montreal drew a high-sticking call, putting them on the game’s first power play. The Habs pressed, testing Markstrom seriously for the first time all night, but the Flames netminder was more than up to the task in smothering those chances.
The Habs nearly escaped the first period without incident, but a too many men call cancelled out the remainder of their power play, and gave Calgary a short window late in the period to open the scoring. They too failed to convert, but started the second period with just over a minute of their man advantage on the clock.
Montreal managed to easily kill off the penalty time, but surrendered the game’s opening goal shortly into the second period. A Josh Anderson pass went to no one in the offensive zone, allowing the Flames to take advantage of a slow line change and attack Alexander Romanov and Nick Suzuki. Derek Ryan worked around Suzuki, sliding a backhand pass off to Josh Leivo, who tapped in under Allen’s pads and put the Flames ahead early in the period.
With two-thirds of the period gone, it was another mental lapse that allowed Calgary to strike once again. Shea Weber worked behind his own net, then fired a pass right up the middle of the ice and into coverage. The puck bounced from a handcuffed Jesperi Kotkaniemi to the stick of Josh Leivo, who was all alone in front of Allen, and the Flames forward had no issue putting his second of the night by the Habs’ goaltender.
A penalty on Phillip Danault put the Flames’ power play back on the ice, and with Montreal’s legs looking rather tired the ensuing power play threatened to push the game out of reach. Some strong goaltending from Allen prevented that, but as the second intermission arrived, Montreal was looking for some kind of catalyst to spark their offence.
That spark wasn’t there to start the third, as the Flames strangled any Montreal attack before it could even get started in all three zones of the ice. The only notable thing from the opening half of the period was Josh Anderson’s half-cocked idea to fight Milan Lucic, a feisty but one-sided fight in favour of the Flames’ tough guy.
Then, finally, a bit of luck went the Habs’ way as they broke Markstrom’s shutout bid. A turnover around the Flames’ net kicked the puck to Shea Weber. who fired a knuckleball shot from the blue line. Perry managed to redirect it, giving him his fifth goal of the season.
Brett Kulak then managed to draw a high-sticking call, putting Montreal on a crucial power play late in the game. The Habs created only a pair of shots as they struggled against the Flames’ defensive efforts, returning to even strength still trailing by a single goal. To make matters worse, Paul Byron was called for slashing, leaving the narrowest of windows for the Canadiens to try and mount a comeback.
In the end, the Habs killed the penalty, but failed to materialize a second goal, and fell to the Flames, 2-1.
These two teams meet again on Saturday night at 7:00 PM ET, when it is expected that Carey Price will start in net for Montreal trying to keep his incredible run of form going.