The Habs were back in action on Saturday night as they looked to split the set in Calgary. Unfortunately, they did not come to play early on and by the time they woke up, the damage had been done as they fell 3-1.
Dominique Ducharme made a pair of changes to the lineup for this one. Artturi Lehkonen returned but instead of coming at Paul Byron’s expense, it was Jake Evans sitting which pushed Byron to play at centre. Meanwhile, Carey Price was between the pipes after getting the night off on Thursday.
Getting off to a good start sounded like a good plan but it didn’t happen. Jonathan Drouin took a completely unnecessary and lazy hooking penalty on the opening shift which set the tone for the first 20 minutes with Chris Tanev and Sean Monahan getting good chances on the delayed penalty.
It was actually Montreal who had the best opportunity on the penalty kill though. Paul Byron jumped a drop-back pass and was able to drive the net but couldn’t get a shot on goal. Calgary had a couple of good opportunities with the man advantage but the Canadiens were able to kill it off.
One would have hoped that would have given the Habs some momentum but it didn’t happen. Instead, they were pressured in their own end and eventually it came back to bite them. Joel Armia was double-teamed behind the net and turned it over to Brett Ritchie. He sent it out to Monahan who had time to receive the puck on his backhand, turn to his forehand, and shoot before Tomas Tatar got over there and his shot beat Price to open the scoring.
Three minutes later, it looked like Byron was going to have a shot on a breakaway but the Habs struggled to push the puck ahead to him. By the time he got it, Calgary was able to get back and break up the play. Two minutes after that, Johnny Gaudreau had a breakaway of his own that Price got a piece of while Victor Mete did well to get back and limit Gaudreau’s options at the very least.
Brendan Gallagher then took an unnecessary penalty in the offensive zone, slashing Andersson in a puck battle to send Calgary to their second power play of the night. This one was successful as on a scramble, the puck hit Shea Weber’s skate and bounced up in the air where Monahan was there to bat it in for his second of the period.
After that, it got to the point where Montreal merely getting the puck to centre ice was an accomplishment. Having said that, their last two shifts at least generated a bit of pressure although they weren’t able to solve Markstrom. The buzzer sounded with Calgary holding a two-goal lead, one that flattered the visitors while the Flames had a 16-6 shot advantage.
The second period didn’t get off to a better start. Dillon Dube had a good chance in the first minute, one that missed the net before he went hard into the boards. Just over two minutes later, Price had a brutal giveaway outside the net. His pass was picked off by Ritchie who sent it over to Gaudreau who put it in the yawning cage. However, the goal was immediately ruled off for a distinct kicking motion, a call that didn’t have anyone from Calgary complaining much.
Three minutes after that, Tyler Toffoli had a good interception and shot that Markstrom stopped. 30 seconds later, Drouin was quick off a neutral zone draw, took the puck, and went all the way into the attacking zone. The shot wasn’t dangerous but it was a nice read from Drouin who had been really quiet to that point.
Unfortunately, it didn’t get Montreal going. Less than a minute later, Andrew Mangiapane skated into the zone and went behind Price. Joel Edmundson went in the wrong direction on the coverage as he guessed wrong which left Mikael Backlund wide open. Mangiapane sent the pass through and Backlund had a tap-in to make it 3-0.
Brady Tkachuk had a dangerous look on a one-timer shortly after that. On the next shift, Corey Perry was able to draw a hold from Juuso Valimaki on a rare shift in the offensive end, sending the Habs to their first man advantage. Drouin had a couple of good looks but that was about all they could muster up.
Toffoli then had a couple of shots on his first shift after the man advantage which eventually led to Drouin drawing an interference call on Andersson, sending the Habs back to the power play. Perry had a nifty stickhandling move in front of the net but while he had Markstrom fooled, his shot went off the post. Off the ensuing faceoff, Gallagher was called for tripping, sending things to four-on-four.
This is typically an area where Montreal has struggled but they did well in this sequence, generating some offensive zone time and were eventually rewarded for their efforts. Drouin got the puck at the point and feathered a pass over to Jeff Petry at the left faceoff dot; he roofed one past Markstrom to open up the scoring. Monahan had a good chance as the four-on-four was expiring but Calgary couldn’t do anything with their limited advantage.
With 3:30 to go, the Habs were caught on a long shift but cleared the zone. As they went for a change, Josh Leivo got behind Mete and drove the net. Fortunately for the Canadiens, he completely flubbed the shot but Montreal was trapped in their own end for a good two minutes. The fourth line had a decent shift to end the period, one that saw the Habs hold a 12-10 shot advantage but the deficit was still two goals.
The big moment early on in the third came from a big collision behind Calgary’s net. Unfortunately for the Habs, it was between Perry and Nick Suzuki with the latter missing a bit of time after that.
A minute later, Petry made a strong pass to Tatar but he couldn’t get the shot off. Montreal kept pushing with Byron and Gallagher getting good chances on the following two shifts but they couldn’t cut into the gap. The pace continued to be high for several minutes after that although there weren’t many chances of note on either side.
With eight minutes left, Petry lost the puck to Sam Bennett, sending him on a breakaway. Bennett looked anything but comfortable as he basically deked himself out of an opportunity with Petry hustling back; the end result was the disgruntled winger not even getting a shot attempt off. Three minutes later, Price made a key stop off Mark Giordano off a three-on-two to keep Montreal in it.
Unfortunately, they couldn’t get any closer than that. The Canadiens briefly looked like they had cut the lead to one as with just under two minutes left and Price out, Weber’s point shot generated a rebound that Josh Anderson put home. However, like Gaudreau earlier, it was clearly kicked in. They continued to try to press but couldn’t get much through as the Flames picked up the crucial two-game sweep.
Price made 33 stops on 36 shots in the losing effort while Markstrom kicked aside all but one of Montreal’s 25 shots. The Flames also held the advantage on special teams as they went 1/3 on the power play with the Habs going 0/2.
HW Habs 3 Stars
1st Star: Paul Byron – Statistically speaking, there isn’t much to justify this but he was basically the only Montreal forward who showed up from the beginning of the game. His speed generated a few good opportunities (but not one that hit the net). I thought he should have been the scratch for Lehkonen to return but Byron had a strong game to prove me wrong.
Stats: 0 points, even rating, 3 hits, 1/2 faceoffs, 10:18 TOI
2nd Star: Jeff Petry – It wasn’t his best game defensively but he logged plenty of ice time with Mete and Brett Kulak having a truly awful performance to the point where they were borderline unplayable. He also scored Montreal’s lone goal and set up a few good chances. Not his best game but a decent outing overall.
Stats: 1 goal, -1 rating, 2 shots, 2 hits, 25:36 TOI
3rd Star: Carey Price – This loss certainly wasn’t on him. He kept the Habs in it much longer than they deserved to be as they should have been down and out before the end of the first period.
Stats: 33 saves on 36 shots, 3.13 GAA, .917 SV%
Honourable Mention: Jonathan Drouin – If someone would have said to me that he would have made this list after the first period, I’d have thought they were crazy. But I’ll give Drouin credit – he was much better in the final 40 minutes. The aggression that had been non-existent the last few games returned and he even held his own at centre briefly when Suzuki was gone. With Phillip Danault far from 100% in this one, that’s an option they may need to call on again.
Stats: 1 assist, even rating, 2 PIMS, 4 shots, 2 hits, 17:59 TOI