On this Remembrance Day, the Habs were hosting the Calgary Flames in a flashback to last year’s Canadian division. If last year’s matches had playoff implications, this year was not so as the Flames sat near the top of the Pacific Division while the Habs are near the bottom of the entire league.
The game was barely two minutes expired when Calgary’s first shot was tipped past Jake Allen by Mikael Backlund as Chris Wideman failed to neutralize his stick. The rest of the opening ten minutes saw two teams who were too slow and sloppy in transition to displace defensive postures.
Just before the midway point of the period, a strong shift by the line of Michael Pezzetta, Alex Belzile, and Ryan Poehling was the proper setup for the top unit of Nick Suzuki, Tyler Toffoli, and Mike Hoffman to go to work. That top unit came in and dominated until a shot by Toffoli was stopped by Jacob Markstrom but the rebound sat behind the netminder until Ben Chiarot came in and put home the loose puck.
The goal really got the Habs going as they were the better team for most of the next five minutes but they once again lacked a nose for the dirty areas and so the Flames escaped unscathed until an Andrew Mangiapane goal with 3:38 to play. It was a rather broken play, as was the pass to Mangiapane that the winger had to stretch to catch with his skate. In an impressive manner, he kicked the puck and slipped it over Allen’s pad and glove. While it was an impressive play by Mangiapane, it was also a goal where Allen lost his angles and ended up out of position. While neither of the goals were necessarily Allen’s fault, he didn’t appear particularly sharp on either play.
The second period started with the first penalty of the game as the Flames were quickly called on a blatant too many men penalty. As can be expected when a good penalty kill faces a bad power play, the Flames were able to kill the penalty. This gave Calgary some life but it wasn’t long until the Canadiens got back to being the aggressor over the Flames. For one the rare times this season, the Habs appeared to be the quicker team as they won many puck races and battles.
The second half of the game kicked off with a second Calgary penalty as Blake Coleman tugged on Pezzetta to send the Habs back to the man advantage. This time, the Habs were successful as a Wideman point shot with heavy traffic left a loose puck in the crease where Gallagher banged it home to tie the game. Gallagher was cross-checked by Erik Gudbranson after the goal, and Toffoli took exception and returned the favour. This created a gigantic melee that resulted in penalties to the two mentioned players.
With a little over five minutes to play in the second, Pezzetta was called for roughing after yet another scrum in front of Markstrom. Montreal survived Calgary’s power play and continued to go toe-to-toe with a good team. In the final minute of the period, Rasmus Andersson held Joel Armia’s stick and the Habs got a man advantage that created a few good chances before the end of the period.
The Habs opened the final period on the man advantage and created some chances as the work ethic was certainly present for the home team on this night. However, the Flames were able to kill the penalty and then came out with their best hockey of the game as the Canadiens were hemmed in their zone for the better part of the next five minutes.
With a little over 11 minutes to play, Gudbranson hit Poehling with a high stick. It was a short power play because Gallagher was guilty of a hook a minute later. Mangiapane continued the parade to the box 30 seconds later so the 4-on-4 continued instead of the Flames getting their turn at a man advantage. With the penalties almost all expired, Hoffman found a streaking Suzuki who caught Markstrom cheating and used the bulky netminder’s pad to bank a shot off the goaltender and in for the Habs to take their first lead of the night.
The final five minutes of the night saw the Habs continue to take the game to Calgary and not sit back in a shell. This welcome vision came to its expected end in the last two minutes as the Flames pushed for the equalizer. However, it was the hard work of Jake Evans that came to be the difference as he outworked two Flames defenders to a loose puck with the goaltender pulled. He put home the game’s final tally and the Habs skated off with the 4-2 victory.
HabsWorld Habs 3 Stars
1st Star – Brendan Gallagher
When the other team spends most of the night yelling at the officials and losing its focus, there is a good chance Gallagher is driving them crazy. He was all over the Flames in this one as he was his usual pest and Calgary lost their focus leading the way to the Montreal victory.
Stats: 1 goal, 1 assist, 2 shots, 16:42 T.O.I.
2nd Star – Nick Suzuki
Amongst the league’s hottest players, Suzuki is quickly becoming the expected top centre of the team. The nifty goal scored on Markstrom is an important element that we’ve become used to as his intelligence and ability to read a play helped him become the best player on the ice.
Stats: 1 goal, 1 assist, 5 shots, 22:06 T.O.I.
3rd Star – Chris Wideman
Wideman, playing next to Romanov, has allowed the young defender to come out of his shell over the last few games. Add to this that he’s been a stabilizing force on the power play. Finally, he rarely gets caught defensively. All of these combined mean a surprisingly solid third pairing defenceman, and if he and Romanov continue playing this way, it can’t be long until they pass others on the team’s hierarchy.
Stats: 1 assist, -1, 15:24 T.O.I.
Honourable Mention – Michael Pezzetta
This was the second game in a row where Pezzetta found the right button to push to get his team emotionally involved in the game. Fans and media are often willing to hand responsibilities to prospects, yet through various management regimes, one constant remains, and it’s that a prospect needs to force their hand to stick with the team. Nobody saw Pezzetta on the Habs this season, never mind him becoming an important member of the team. Yet, it appears that Pezzetta is forcing the team’s hand and could quickly become a mainstay on that fourth line. An interesting twist to the season for sure.
Stats: 1 shot, 3 hits, 6:59 T.O.I.