The Habs faced a difficult schedule as they returned to action Thursday night for their first visit to the Calgary Saddledome. This was their second game in less than 24 hours while moving cities, time zones, and facing a team with a new coach.
The effects were made worse after learning of a broken hand for Ben Chiarot. This meant that Alexander Romanov got a first look on the team’s top-four on the blue line as he partnered up with Shea Weber while Victor Mete got in the lineup next to Brett Kulak. After Wednesday’s dominant performance, the Habs decided to dress the same forwards but did replace Carey Price with Jake Allen. As expected, the Habs often looked out of gas and without energy throughout the game and the 2–1 final score was proof of their inability to overcome such a challenging schedule.
This was a game that lacked pace and tempo from the onset. With both teams studying their opposition, it took almost five minutes before anyone really attacked a net as the Monahan tip-in was stopped by Allen.
The one Montreal line that appeared to have some tempo in the period was that of Tomas Tatar, Phillip Danault, and Joel Armia. It was the latter player that attracted the game’s first penalty as Armia was high-sticked by Nesterov. The Habs power play was okay, but one pass by Jesperi Kotkaniemi got through and Tatar missed a glorious chance. Then, with 47 seconds remaining in the period, the Habs were penalized for too many men on the ice. It was a boring period, one where the Habs didn’t appear to have much energy and the shots were a generous 6-6 after the period.
The second period was actually worse. The Habs had a minute left to kill to kick it off, which they managed. However, a minute later, Anderson was guilty of not identifying a line change at the bench while Petry misread and also stayed up high. This led to a 3-on-2 with poor coverage by Suzuki which ultimately meant a 1-0 Flames lead. The goal was followed by some push back by the Habs as Tatar and Tyler Toffoli got good scoring chances after this but they both appeared to lack the concentration necessary to finish.
The second half of the period saw Calgary really take over. Montreal got some offensive zone time but they were once again not attacking the middle of the zone. With six minutes to play, Brendan Gallagher failed to get the puck out of the zone. The result was a weak pass by Weber up the middle that was poorly handled by Kotkaniemi. This allowed Josh Leivo to get the puck in the slot as he put home his second on the night to extend the lead.
The Habs once again had a short push back, this time interrupted by a Danault offensive zone penalty. Allen made a few big stops early but the score remained 2-0 heading to the third. Of note, Andrew Mangiapane started a scrum in the final minute and it was confusing. He had a tired team before him that is solidly asleep. Why take the risk of waking up the Habs?
The third kicked off with much the same lack of intensity that was seen over the first 40 minutes. This was disappointing because it showed a lack of desperation from the Habs. The most notable aspect early was that the Habs defenders were clearly asked to pinch and push the pace offensively.
Almost five minutes into the period, Gallagher pushed and succeeded in deking two Calgary players to gain a good shot where he hit the post. This got the Habs rolling for a few shifts until Josh Anderson decided to fight Milan Lucic. This was more of a street fight and Anderson was lucky because a few Lucic haymakers just missed their mark. Calgary’s fourth line continued to be the best, albeit not so difficult when they are that size and facing Mete on almost every shift.
The second half of the period kicked off with Dominique Ducharme mixing it up. A strong forecheck by Toffoli and Suzuki resulted in a point shot from Weber which was tipped home by Corey Perry with 9:45 to play.
The next shift saw Paul Byron get two good looks. The Danault line were stopped repeatedly by Jacob Markstrom. With Calgary regaining control, Brett Kulak had a terrible shift, only to see it end with him taking a high stick to send his team to the power play. The only dangerous looking play of the man advantage? Of course, it was Perry taking the puck hard to the net. He was stopped and received a ridiculous cross-check from Sam Bennett in the back after the play that went uncalled.
With 2:36 to play, Byron took an absolutely unnecessary penalty that honestly should draw Lehkonen back into the lineup as he slashed Dillon Dube’s stick right out of his hands. The Habs killed the penalty but had little time left as they only mustered one Weber point shot in the few remaining seconds to attempt to tie the game.
HabsWorld Habs Three Stars
First Star – Tomas Tatar
Tatar missed two glorious scoring chances on the night which meant he was in the right places all night long. He was also the author of a great defensive play to cover more questionable plays by Kulak and Mete. Overall, it was a nice game from Tatar, too bad he couldn’t bury one to get back on track.
Stats: 3 SOG, 3 hits, 13:26 TOI
Second Star – Corey Perry
How do you know an elite player is also an intelligent player? In the twilight of their careers, they can think their way to being effective when their body isn’t what it used to be. Perry scored the lone Habs goal, knocked on the door on the power play and the team became dangerous when Perry was moved onto a scoring line late in the game. Do I want Perry as a top-six forward nightly? No. Is Perry still ultra-effective in the role he now holds? Absolutely, and this game was no exception. He still has elite hands that make him dangerous whenever he gets the puck in the offensive zone.
Stats: 1 goal, +1, 2 shots, 1 hit, 13:17 TOI
Third Star – Joel Armia
Armia’s ability to be a puck hound in the offensive zone has been on full display since joining Tatar and Danault. It’s interesting that in a contract year, Danault has stopped being the one chasing the puck in the corners on his line and is looking to make skill plays. Skills he doesn’t necessarily have. Anyways, the result is he now needs an Armia on his line, while Gallagher tries to help higher on the roster. Not a bad trade-off. Anyways, Armia’s relentless pursuit of the puck on this night meant that for a second consecutive night, this line was very effective.
Stats: 1 SOG, 4 hits, 15:20 TOI
Honourable Mention – Nick Suzuki
This is nowhere near Playoff Suzuki or even the start of the season Suzuki. However, Suzuki completed a really good forecheck on Perry’s goal, and he started skating after this. It’s an honourable mention because there wasn’t much to celebrate on this night, but also in the hopes that the play where he did all the work and didn’t get the assist on even though it would have been justified is the one that gets his legs moving again.
Stats: 16:56 T.O.I., 4/9 faceoffs