The Habs continued their Western Canadian road trip as they visited the Calgary Flames on Thursday night. While both teams entered with similar records, one must notice that Calgary came in playing much better of late as their record indicated a 7-2-1 over their last ten games. Coach Julien announced no changes to the lineup after an excellent effort in Vancouver. This meant that Lukas Vejdemo would wait some more before making his NHL debut. It also meant that Carey Price was in his net as he faced David Rittich. The Habs struggled mightily for the first half of the game. Price bailed them out and a fluky Brendan Gallagher goal got them started, but it was enough as they survived a rough night by its second defensive pairing to squeeze out a 4-3 overtime win on the road.
Despite a fast-paced opening on both sides, the game was rather uneventful to start as both teams stayed within their structure and studied each other. The Flames game plan was evident early as they did not pass up an opportunity to hit a Montreal player.
Calgary opened the scoring at the 12:26 mark when Jeff Petry, Brendan Gallagher, and Phillip Danault all failed to clear the zone after some intense forecheck by Andrew Mangiapane opened the zone for Elias Lindholm to create an empty net for Matthew Tkachuk. The scoring line for Calgary absolutely dominated the Danault line all period long.
The Habs would push back with six minutes to play in the period when Max Domi slowed his zone entry to find a trailing Petry who forced a point-blank save by Rittich. With three minutes to play, Price made an aggressive breakout pass that found Nick Suzuki who beat Rittich but saw his shot hit the post and stay out.
This momentum was cut in the final minute as Danault was assessed a tripping penalty. The Flames power play wasted little time as it moved the puck around while the Habs scrambled. Three consecutive cross-ice passes got through Montreal’s box and the result was another open net as this time Lindholm finished the play sending the Habs back to the locker room down 2-0.
The opening five minutes of the second period was all Calgary as the Habs simply did not look interested in paying the price to win puck battles against a faster, bigger and more physical Calgary team. Price multiplied important saves to keep his team in the game, none better than the shoulder save on Tkachuk who had made quite an impressive move to get a shot off from between his legs. Just before the midway point in the period,
Shea Weber decided to show the forwards how to win a puck battle. He went into the offensive zone and won the puck. He then found Gallagher who fired on net from a near-impossible angle. The shot caught Rittich cheating off his post to make it 2-1 and gave the Habs hope.
The second half of the game started with a few more big saves by Price against the top Calgary line who continued to have its way. These saves bought just enough time for the Habs to complete the comeback as Joel Armia tied the score with 6:49 to play. Artturi Lehkonen accepted the pass from Ben Chiarot while he entered the zone and gave it to a trailing Armia who simply put it on net. It was a shot that Rittich needed to stop. Calgary would challenge for an offside, but the goal stood which meant the Habs first power play of the night.
The power play was ineffective until both Jordan Weal and Nick Cousins left the ice as the Habs got two good chances in the last moments of the advantage. All of a sudden, the Habs were all over the ice and this led to a Sean Monahan penalty as he tripped Domi. This version of the man advantage saw Rittich stop a handful of good scoring chances as the period ended tied.
The Flames once again came out strong and really hemmed the Habs in their zone. The Habs actually got away with a few questionable plays to start the period as Cale Fleury was likely guilty of a hold while Cousins stayed on the ice and drew a whistle with the Flames applying pressure in the offensive zone. After Rieder and Mike Reilly got tangled up in the corner, the play was 4-on-4 and the teams exchanged scoring chances as Armia was stopped on a breakaway before Brett Kulak (who had a rough night) missed the net on a scoring chance. This led to Johnny Gaudreau entering the Montreal zone and finding a late Oliver Kylington who beat Price high glove save as the Flames regained the lead.
The second half of the period started with the Habs trying a bit too hard to apply pressure and the Flames really shutting down the centre of the ice. The result was a ton of neutral zone play with not a whole lot in terms of scoring chances. With eight minutes to play, Suzuki won about three puck battles in the offensive zone. He’d be the beneficiary of his own hard work and Weal and Cousins then cycled the puck until Cousins sent the puck to the net where Suzuki simply tipped it up and over Rittich to tie the game once again. The goal gave the Habs wings as they were all over the Flames in the minutes that followed the goal.
Both teams played a hard-nosed final five minutes, but also safe hockey as neither was bothered by the opposition picking up a point. An exception was a dumb Kulak pinch which opened up the play and resulted in Price having to make an excellent stop with just over a minute to play.
The game made it to overtime after too many Calgary chances in the final minute. The Habs returned the favour with three great scoring chances early as Rittich stopped Domi twice in close. Domi would not be stopped a third time as a Price breakaway save resulted in Domi carrying the puck up the ice where everyone was looking pass while he wound up for a big slap shot that rang off the post before rounding into the net for the Habs fourth point out of four so far on this road trip.
HabsWorld Habs 3 Stars
1st Star – Brendan Gallagher
For the first half of this game, it looked like the Habs were going to be easily shut out as they put many pucks on net but just about none of them were dangerous scoring chances. Who else but Gallagher could find a puck and make a play to surprise everyone and make a game appear out of thin air? Gallagher then doubled his hard work and created chance after chance as the Habs’ top line rebounded nicely after being completely dominated by the Flames top line for the first thirty minutes of play.
Stats: 1 goal, 0 (+/-), 5 shots, 17:28 T.O.I.
2nd Star – Nick Suzuki
The best 60-minute effort on the night belongs to Suzuki who made plays at both ends of the ice and created scoring chances all night long, both at 5-on-5 and on the power play. If Julien criticized the young forward after last Saturday night’s effort, I hope he gives him a well-deserved pat on the back after this one. Suzuki was rewarded too as he scored the very important tying goal in the third period that allowed the Habs to make it to overtime. Think the coaching staff didn’t notice? Suzuki got ice time in the final minute of the game and in overtime.
Stats: 1 goal, +1, 6 shots, 17:28 T.O.I.
3rd Star – Max Domi
It appears the demise of Max Domi was greatly exaggerated. Domi scored the overtime winner after being an impact player in the second half of this contest. For everyone clamouring that the Habs need a player like the Tkachuk’s, stop looking elsewhere; this is exactly who Domi is night after night. He was no different in this one as he yapped the opposition, got in their face, and then put some numbers on the board.
Stats: 1 goal, +1, 4 shots, 18:32 T.O.I.
Honourable Mention – Carey Price
Strange to me that Price ends up here but the other three had to be underlined. Honestly, the stat line doesn’t look too flashy, but Price made some huge saves in the first half of this game for the Habs to even have a chance as they were being outworked right out of the rink. Then, with the score 3-3, he made more excellent saves to get the game into overtime. Once in overtime? How about that breakaway save that leads directly to the game-winner? An excellent night for Price.
Stats: 24 saves, 27 shots, .887 save %, 2.82 G.A.A., 63:52 T.O.I.