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Canadiens @ Flames game recap: Habs can’t match Calgary’s desperation

The Montreal Canadiens were once again defeated by the Calgary Flames.

NHL: Montreal Canadiens at Calgary Flames Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Taking on the Calgary Flames in a crucial three-game series with playoff implications, the Montreal Canadiens hoped to continue their winning ways in Alberta. But the visitors’ winning streak was snapped at one, as the Flames’ desperation paid off in a must-win game for the home team.

After Phillip Danault won the opening faceoff, it was all Calgary in the opening sequence of the first period. The Flames forced the Canadiens to play deep in their own end, but Jake Allen made a couple of timely saves early on to give his team a chance to regroup.

The home team’s continuous pressure would eventually pay off. Dillon Dube took advantage of a series of defensive miscues and lack of footspeed in the Canadiens’ end to give his squad the first lead of the game just under halfway through the period.

At the other end of the ice, the Flames were stifling Montreal’s offence. Habs forwards could barely get close enough to Jacob Markstrom to challenge the goaltender. Yet despite the the Flames’ best efforts, Tyler Toffoli made quick work of a rare opening, sniping one past Markstrom to tie the game at one with his 23rd of the season.

Joel Armia gave the Canadiens the lead with less then two minutes left in the period, burying Danault’s faceoff win behind an ill-prepared Markstrom. Armia’s sixth goal of the year temporarily allowed his team to have some breathing room.

With 1:17 left of the clock, the first penalty of the game went against Montreal, as Shea Weber was sent off for tripping Elias Lindholm. This lack of discipline from the captain in the dying minutes of the frame would come back to cost the Canadiens, as Andrew Mangiapane scored on the ensuing man advantage to tie the game at two.

Montreal began the second period almost immediately on the power play when Michael Stone was penalized for roughing Paul Byron, but the visitors couldn’t capitalize on the ensuing power play, leaving the game tied.

Although both teams exchanged a handful of dangerous scoring chances throughout the frame, neither team could convert those into goals. The Canadiens were however able to momentarily narrow the shot gap, nearly matching the home team.

With less than three minutes remaining in the second, Mikael Backlund shoved a puck loose out of Allen’s glove to put Calgary back on top with a 3-2 lead. Once again the goaltender’s protestations convinced Ducharme to challenge, and that would see the call on the ice overturned when it was determined that there was goalie interference on the play.

With the game tied at two apiece, both teams headed into the final period with the same degree of urgency looking to break the stalemate. Just over five minutes in, Sean Monahan redirected a pass from Johnny Gaudreau to beat Allen and give Calgary a 3-2 lead. Invigorated by the early goal, the Flames went on to turn the Canadiens’ crease into a shooting range. Despite getting outshot by a two-to-one ratio, Allen continued to give his team a fighting chance.

Montreal would get golden opportunities of its own in the latter half of the period, which saw Nick Suzuki and later Anderson both ring shots that got past Markstrom but couldn’t beat the goalpost.

The Canadiens weren’t able to sustain that pressure for long, sinking back into their passive habits with less than two minutes left on clock and an empty net. With time ticking away, Montreal struggled to keep the puck in the offensive zone. Lindholm would seal the Flames’ win with an empty-net goal, as the Canadiens dropped this game by a score of 4-2.