The Habs were looking to win back-to-back games for the first time since December 17-19 when they played host to the Calgary Flames in a rare Monday night affair. Montreal was ready to go right from the opening faceoff and dominated the Flames for much of the evening. Carey Price was stellar in goal once again as the Canadiens skated off with a 2-0 victory.
The Canadiens’ blue line got a major boost with Ben Chiarot coming back to the top pairing, after missing two games with an upper-body injury. Jordan Weal also drew back in, taking Matthew Peca’s spot on the fourth line.
Montreal flew out of the gate in this one. They registered chance after chance in the Calgary zone, and the Flames were hanging on for dear life. Through the first seven minutes, the Habs held a 9-1 advantage on the shot clock.
Just before the first commercial break, Victor Mete was tripped in his own zone, rewarding the Habs for their great start with a power play. Montreal did everything on the man advantage but score. Max Domi, Ilya Kovalchuk and Shea Weber moved the puck with great speed and precision, but they couldn’t find the opening goal.
Shortly after, the Habs finally got on the board. Jeff Petry tried to wrap the puck around, and it slid out front to Jordan Weal. In one motion Weal picked up the puck and turned around then slid it through David Rittich for the opening goal.
After the goal Montreal’s play got even stronger. They strung more and more chances together but couldn’t double up their lead. In the last minute, Tomas Tatar and Kovalchuk came close, but Tatar fired a rebound just over the net. When the period was over the Canadiens held a 17-7 advantage on the shot clock, so in a way, it was disappointing that they were only up by a single goal.
The Habs continued their great play to start the second and had a few close calls early on. Seven minutes into the frame, Montreal got their second power play when Danualt tried to go on a two-on-one with Kovalchuk but was taken down by Mark Giordano. Calgary did a good job of pressuring the Habs up high and along the boards for most of the advantage. Artturi Lehkonen did find Phillip Danault alone in front of the net but his tip was stopped by the pad of Rittich.
Price made his first great save of the game with seven minutes left in the second. Tobias Reider tried to go short side, but Price stuck out his pad to stop it. On the same shift, Sam Bennett was called for high-sticking. The Flames played this penalty kill similarly to the last one, and the Habs couldn’t find an answer for it.
Calgary got their first chance on the power play with four minutes to go after a Ryan Poehling hooking call. Montreal’s much-improved penalty kill went right to work and coupled with a few nice saves from their netminder, they killed it off effectively. Calgary started to get more chances as the rest of the second period played out, but Price stayed strong in his net to keep the Habs ahead.
The top line tried to get the Habs going on their very first shift of the third. After a rebound went into the far corner, Kovalchuk got to it first. He had Tatar open in front, but the pass was too hard, and it went off his stick and over the glass.
Two minutes into the frame, Mete was called for hooking, giving the Flames a huge chance to knot up the score. The Canadiens did not let up and had another excellent kill to keep the Flames shut out.
Just before the midway point of the third the Habs finally got the insurance goal they desperately needed. Jesperi Kotkaniemi won a faceoff in the offensive zone, and Poehling picked it up. He went untouched to the net and waited out Rittich before sniping it short side for his first goal of the season.
Later on, in the period Calgary had their best chance of the night. Elias Lindholm was open and fed a perfect pass for a one-timer. He had the whole net to look at, but Price made a strong slide across and robbed him of a sure goal. This got the crowd on their feet, and chants of “Carey, Carey, Carey” came raining down from the rafters.
The Flames pulled Rittich with just under four minutes left in the game, giving themselves lots of time to find two goals. The Habs stayed very strong in the defensive end and limited Calgary from getting any traffic towards the net. The shots that made it through Price controlled and didn’t allow many rebounds. Price would not be beaten in this one, as he moved into a tie for third in Habs history with Ken Dryden with his 46th career shutout.
HabsWorld Habs Three Stars
First Star – Carey Price
I mentioned after the win on Saturday that the Habs would need more games like that from Price if they want to get back into the playoff race. He delivered again tonight, and in his last six periods, he has only allowed one fluky goal. If the Habs can get more performances like this one, the Bell Centre will be a tough place for visiting teams to win in.
Stats: 31 saves, shutout, win
Second Star – Jordan Weal
After serving as a healthy scratch in the last game, Weal played one of his better games as a Hab tonight. For the first half of the game, he generated the most chances of any Hab and his opportunistic goal in the first period ended up being the game-winner.
Stats: GWG, +1, 5 SOG, 11:20 TOI
Third Star – Ryan Poehling
After playing well in almost every game he’s been in this year, Poehling’s name finally appeared on the scoresheet. He looked like a veteran on his goal, waiting out Rittich and making no mistake with the shot. He was also a part of the Habs’ penalty kill that once again came up big.
Stats: 1G, +1, 3 SOG, 13:21 TOI
Honourable Mention- Jeff Petry
Petry led the Habs in a great defensive performance and looked great next to Marco Scandella all night. Petry also did the work to lead to Weal’s opening tally and played a large part in the penalty kill.
Stats: 1A, +1, 2 SOG, 21:36 TOI