The Habs put their perfect regulation time record on the line for the last time on Saturday night as they fell 2-0 to the Calgary Flames in what can only be described in a game that featured many odd turns for the bleu-blanc-rouge. It was a rare Saturday night breather for Carey Price as Jake Allen battled Jacob Markstrom in what turned into a battle of the netminders. Coach Julien opted to keep the lineup intact, a thing that is likely to change come Monday as the injuries are likely more worrisome than the loss to a Calgary team who really played an excellent game.
The Flames came out strong as they completely dominated most of the first period. Allen was forced to make some excellent saves early. Brett Kulak, who easily played his worst game since before last year’s playoffs, pinched in the neutral zone for no reason and was forced to take an interference penalty on Bennett to prevent a scoring chance as a result. On the power play, Paul Byron and Ben Chiarot both ended up on the opposite side of the ice leaving Johnny Gaudreau all alone to receive a pass and he fired a shot over Allen’s shoulder for a lead only three and half minutes into the game.
The rest of the period included the Phillip Danault line getting some scoring chances while all three of the other lines were mostly hemmed into their defensive zone. A penalty was called on a dumb Danault play with eight minutes to play in the period, but the best chance of Calgary’s advantage went to Byron.
With four minutes to play, the Danault line went to work as a give-and-go between Brendan Gallagher and Tomas Tatar just missed the net before Andrew Mangiapane lacked discipline and took an offensive zone penalty with only 15 seconds to play in the period. The period ended with a 15-9 shot advantage for the Flames, and it still wasn’t really accurate to the Flames’ dominance in this period.
The second period could have been subtitled the Zebra Show as many man advantages were exchanged in the period, some earned, some not so much. The opening power play for the Habs saw Shea Weber get a great shot off before the rest of the advantage was ruined with the unit forcing the same play to Weber which was now guarded, a frustrating tendency from this unit.
The Danault line was particularly dominant during this period, but Markstrom played big and continued to stonewall the Habs. He did get lots of help as the Flames all looked like Joel Edmundson on this night. Rasmus Andersson was then lured by Gallagher into taking a penalty away from the play. Tomas Tatar got a good look before Tyler Toffoli took a penalty backchecking. Around this time, it was announced that Josh Anderson would not return. After the game, it was announced that it was a negative covid test while Anderson was experiencing flu-like symptoms.
Calgary started the second half of the period on a man advantage that amounted to nothing. Each team took two more penalties with the Habs getting better chances on both the power play and penalty kill. Throughout this segment of play, it became clear that Markstrom was getting into the Habs head as the Canadiens started to make the extra pass or try plays that simply were not there. This was an element reminiscent of last season’s Habs, something that was not yet seen from this year’s squad. However, the line juggling with Anderson’s absence might have played into the poor decisions with the puck. In all, despite the various man advantage swings, the Habs ended the period with a 15-5 shot advantage, but they were still behind where it mattered.
The Habs kicked off the final period with some good puck control which allowed Kotkaniemi to get a good scoring chance. Other than this chance, it was a stingy start to the period for both teams. The Habs continued the second-period habit of winning races to free pucks and they were rewarded as Kotkaniemi drew a holding penalty from Josh Leivo. However, the power play was not very convincing.
The second half of the period kicked off with two consecutive terrible giveaways by Edmundson, something that hadn’t been seen since the first game of the season. Allen bailed out his defender with some solid saves, but it was the first signs of panic from the Habs in 30 minutes of play.
The next shift saw Joakim Nordstrom crash into Allen pretty hard with Allen not giving up on the play and absolutely robbing the Flames on the play. How Kulak ended up with an interference minor on the play is absolutely mind-boggling, but there it was, the Habs on the penalty kill again. The opening sequence saw Matthew Tkachuk get a golden chance as Chiarot was once again inexplicably caught on the same side of the ice as Weber. The rest of the PK was uneventful but only left the Habs with seven minutes to fight back. The Flames were successful in completely shutting Montreal out for the seven minutes. Dillon Dube was stopped by Allen on a breakaway before Mikael Backlund finished the game into the empty net with 30 seconds left.
HabsWorld Habs 3 Stars
1st Star – Brendan Gallagher
A night like this one allows some time to examine some of the forgotten players from the shiny start that has been this start to the season. Gallagher gets little attention given the shiny new toys’ performances. However, he remains the same old Gallagher who disturbs the front of the opposition net, looks for greasy rebounds, and never takes a shift off. He was one of the few bright spots on this night and he gets the first star for that as well as an under the radar excellent start to the season.
Stats: -1 rating, 4 shots, 4 hits, 14:17 TOI
2nd Star – Jake Allen
While the decision to start Allen on this Saturday was contested, Allen once again showed that he is reliable and an excellent goaltender. Every single start so far has only reinforced that he is and will be worth every penny Marc Bergevin spent on finally acquiring a capable backup. Now if only Carey Price can play lights out down the stretch to show that the rest for him is absolutely required.
Stats: 32 shots against, 31 saves, .969 save %, 1.00 GAA, 58:51 TOI
3rd Star – Jesperi Kotkaniemi
While Suzuki is usually the young centre who seems like he has a puck magnet on his stick, his very quiet game allowed the stand out to be Kotkaniemi. While the younger centre has played extremely well over the last week, the dimming of Suzuki’s game on this night allowed his game to shine even more despite the fact he or his linemates were never able to finish the plays that were created.
Stats: 0 (+/-), 3 shots, 13:12 TOI
Honourable Mention – Alexander Romanov
Romanov is still used less than the top four on most nights, but the coaching staff has to start considering moving him to the left when they see games like this. Chiarot, Edmundson, and Kulak all struggled mightily on this night. Like Petry, Romanov’s mobility allows him to be a positive influence even when the rest of the team appears to be overthinking their every move. Moving him to the left on a night such as this would allow the coaching staff to diminish the ice time of the defenders who are struggling. It also gives the team a bit more offence, an important detail with the team trailing. Then again, this coaching staff continues to rely far too heavily on defence-first forwards too when they are behind, so why would they coach any differently on the blue line.
Stats: 0 (+/-), 1 shot, 1 hit, 16:07 TOI