After having their winning streak snapped by the Jets on Tuesday, the Habs visited the Saddledome in Calgary as they battled the best team from the Pacific in the red-hot Flames. The Habs did not want to see a streak heading the other way, but the Flames were 9-1 in their last ten coming into the contest. Coach Martin St. Louis opted to make a few minor changes as Michael Pezzetta replaced Mathieu Perreault while Kale Clague replaced Corey Schueneman. The matchup in the blue paint featured Andrew Hammond for the Habs taking on Jacob Markstrom for the Flames. It turned out to be a wildly entertaining contest, the Habs mounted a much-deserved come from behind victory, taking it 5-4 in overtime.
The opening five minutes saw a real tight game with little space to operate on the ice. Calgary had a few scoring chances that tested Hammond early, but then they also got the first extended shift offensively and appeared to be in control. The Habs responded well though and decided to open the game a bit and force the Flames to try to skate with them. This opened a few chances for Laurent Dauphin and Michael Pezzetta that Markstrom turned aside.
The second half of the period featured the game’s first goal as Andrew Mangiapane attacked the middle of the zone and caused confusion in coverage as Jeff Petry and Jake Evans got their signals crossed which left Blake Coleman wide open on the back door for an easy tap-in at 11:06.
The Canadiens fought back as Ryan Poehling got a good shot off after some hard work by Joel Armia. With 6:26 to play in the period, Petry was hooked which meant the game’s first man advantage. The power play looked excellent and got quite a few chances before Brendan Gallagher was tripped in the corner for 34 seconds of 5-on-3. The Habs got puck control but a bad decision to shoot by Rem Pitlick ended their short opportunity.
With three minutes to play in the period and a 13-5 shot advantage for the Habs, Brett Kulak hit Tyler Toffoli with a high stick that sent the Flames to the man advantage. They got two great chances early, but an unorthodox Hammond managed to keep the puck out of the net.
Of note in the first was some Ryan Poehling ice time occurring on both the power play and the penalty kill. As the Kulak penalty expired, Artturi Lehkonen got free and down the ice on a 2-on-1 with Nick Suzuki. Lehkonen opted for the shot, which was stopped, but Petry came in late and was all over the rebound as he tied the game with just 26 seconds left in the period.
The second period kicked off with a scare as Ben Chiarot took a puck to the face but would stay in the game. Overall, it was a tentative start to the period, but it picked up significantly after the first five minutes. Jake Evans took a series of hits, pucks, and sticks to the face throughout the period that would eventually knock him out of the game.
With 13 minutes left in the period, Mike Hoffman took a really dumb offensive zone slash. The penalty kill looked fantastic as the Flames never got close until Evans took a stick to the face to send the Habs to their advantage. The first unit looked dangerous, but the veteran or second unit squandered the momentum created by the kids.
The second half of the game got going with a sloppy pass by Hammond to Alexander Romanov. Romanov, who was already not having a great night, misplayed it and the puck found itself on Johnny Gaudreau’s stick in the slot which meant a 2-1 Calgary lead.
Another stick to Evans’ face meant another power play. This time, the result was not good. Mangiapane took advantage of finding Poehling as the last man back. He turned on the jets, beat Poehling wide, and then roofed a backhand over Hammond’s shoulder for a 3-1 lead.
Markstrom was then guilty of a trip on Hoffman. This chance would once again become a 5-on-3 when Gallagher took another stick to the face. Suzuki pounced on the opportunity. With everyone looking at Caufield and Hoffman for the shots, Suzuki grabbed the puck down low and surprised Markstrom by stuffing it home to make it 3-2. Mangiapane came close to restoring the two-goal lead late in the period, but Hammond came up big.
The third period started with yet another great scoring chance for Gallagher. With the Habs pushing, it was Chiarot who scored the equalizer. Suzuki picked off a pass in the defensive zone, skated down, pulled a move that attracted the attention of far too many Flames. This created space as Gallagher got in Markstrom’s face while Suzuki found Hoffman, who in turn found Chiarot. Chiarot’s shot found a way through the crowd and Markstrom to tie the game.
The teams then exchanged chances as Coleman missed a wide-open net as he caught Hammond swimming and completely out of position. Then Laurent Dauphin whiffed on a brilliant pass by Gallagher. Finally, it was Hammond being stellar as he made two excellent saves right at the ten-minute mark.
Clague kicked off the final ten minutes by taking an interference penalty on Toffoli. While Calgary didn’t generate much on their advantage, it was enough for them to control the pace of play afterward as the Canadiens appeared to be on their heels.
As is usually the case with the game on the line, the Habs finally caught a break and headed the other way. With 2:45 to play, Dauphin saw Gallagher in his office creating some havoc in coverage. He took advantage and found Hoffman who was able to bury a shot on Markstrom for the Habs’ first lead of the night.
It would be short lived though. Gallagher failed to bury his shot at the empty net twice resulting in two icings against the Habs. The second icing was fatal as Dauphin lost the ensuing faceoff and with 27 seconds remaining, another poor defensive read by Romanov allowed Mangiapane to find Elias Lindholm for a tap-in sending the game to overtime.
Got to love a coach not playing to lose. The overtime started with Petry, Suzuki, and Caufield on the ice. They controlled possession for the better part of their shift. The next unit was Hoffman, Chiarot, and Pitlick. Hoffman was able to retrieve the puck in the defensive zone and sprung Pitlick on a rush. The speedy forward found his defenceman joining the rush and found the trailer as Chiarot buried his second of the game to give the Habs a much-deserved win.
HabsWorld Habs 3 Stars
1st Star – Nick Suzuki
It’s been a few times now since St. Louis has taken over that Suzuki has really looked like a man amongst boys. Facing a formidable opponent, Suzuki turned on that other gear in this one. Just look at that stats line and honestly, I’m not sure it even does justice to how good he was in this game. He was by far the best player on the ice in this contest and considering the game played by Mangiapane, that’s saying something.
Stats: 1 goal, 2 assists, +1, 6 shots, 23:51 T.O.I.
2nd Star – Ben Chiarot
Chiarot was paired with Romanov who didn’t have his A-game on this night. Chiarot covered for Romanov’s reads a few times, took hits to make plays, was effective with the puck, and physical when he needed to be. This is the Ben Chiarot teams are hoping to get, and why he’s likely to gift the Habs with some nice future assets on his way out of town sometime in the next three weeks. Oh yeah, he also chipped in with two goals including the game-winner.
Stats: 2 goals, 1 assist, +2, 2 shots, 1 hit, 24:49 T.O.I.
3rd Star – Mike Hoffman
It’s hard to truly pin down Mike Hoffman. Watching him play, it’s clear that he possesses all the talent in the world. Oftentimes, one sees his plays in the defensive zone and can even say that effort truly does not appear to be the missing factor in this player. But then he makes a play that leaves everyone in the arena bewildered and it becomes somewhat evident that while Hoffman appears to have all the talent and good one would want to see, he lacks game-reading IQ and this leaves him vulnerable to a few plays he made on Thursday. On the flip side, his talent is undeniable and so I like seeing the coaching staff continue to use him in overtime. The scoreboard sure liked Hoffman’s night, that’s for sure.
Stats: 1 goal, 3 assists, +3, 2 shots, 1 hit, 17:20 T.O.I.
Honourable Mention – Brendan Gallagher
Pitlick and Kulak are absolutely deserving of this space too on this night. Here’s hoping I can feature them in an upcoming game. But Gallagher was all over that third period. Sure, he missed two clears that ended up in icing calls. He was also responsible for creating havoc in coverage every single time his line was in the offensive zone. His play was the Gallagher of old as Markstrom truly looked bothered all night long by Gallagher’s presence and that’s what we want to see from the wily veteran.
Stats: +1, 4 shots, 17:42 T.O.I.