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The Canadiens arrived in Calgary for their annual visit, looking to even up their season series with the Flames. Once again they lost someone for this game, but this time it was head coach Martin St. Louis, who had to leave the team to attend to a family issue. At this time it’s not clear when he will be able to return.

How much difference St. Louis’ absence made is difficult to say, but the goaltending was certainly not in the Habs’ favour. Cayden Primeau made his second start after the departure of Jake Allen, but he did not look like the same goaltender that shut out the Columbus Blue Jackets less than a week earlier, as the Habs lost 5-2 in spite of outshooting Calgary 38-28.

Montreal’s Lines

Caufield – Suzuki – Slafkovsky
Roy – Newhook – Armia
Gallagher – Evans – Anderson
Harvey-Pinard – White – Pearson

Matheson – Guhle
Xhekaj – Savard
Struble – Harris


10 Thoughts

1) After 15 minutes of fairly tentative back-and-forth hockey, the Flames were pressing in the Habs’ zone, and Kaiden Guhle was caught hooking Jonathan Huberdeau in front of Primeau. The penalty kill went fairly well for the first minute and some, but with the top penalty killers on the bench, the Flames got the pressure on, and Mikael Backlund was able to send a shot from the top of the circle through heavy traffic, and Primeau appeared not to see the shot at all.

2) Two minutes later, the Habs got their own opportunity as Joel Armia drew a hook from A.J. Greer. The power play looked mostly good–other than two shorthanded breaks given up, one by each power play unit–but the shot count was all of one, although that was a nice one-timer by Juraj Slafkovsky. Arguably Joshua Roy had the more dangerous, even if less spectacular scoring chance, as he backhanded the puck at the Calgary net just as the Greer penalty expired. Dustin Wolf had that covered, though.

3) As the puck dropped for the second period, Backlund won the faceoff from Nick Suzuki, who stumbled in the aftermath. The Flames rushed the Montreal zone, and while Primeau made a pad save on the Mackenzie Weegar shot, he gave up a stonking rebound. He sprawled to try to (unsuccessfully) swat away the loose puck, but Blake Coleman was able to send it back to the front of the net, where Backlund was completely alone. It was the Calgary captain’s 200th NHL goal, and surely one of the easiest as he tapped in the puck into the completely wide-open net.

4) The TV broadcast highlighted that Primeau had had two shutouts in his last four starts, which might not have actually jinxed Primeau but it certainly didn’t help, as the Flames extended their lead to three less than four minutes later. Huberdeau tossed the puck to the front of the net from the left-side boards, and Guhle intercepted it in front of the net but was unable to control the puck. Martin Pospisil was ready in front of Primeau and tucked the puck through the Habs’ goaltender’s pads to make it a 3-0 game. Primeau might want to get a do-over on this one, too.

5) The Canadiens were finally able to beat Wolf just past the halfway point of the game, on what is becoming a prototypical play by the top line. Slafkovsky freed up the puck on the boards and sent it to a rushing Suzuki along the right-side boards. Cole Caufield was keeping pace on the left, and unleashed his legendary one-timer once Suzuki sent him a cross-ice pass. This time there was nothing Wolf could do about it, and the Habs were on the board.

6) Pospisil manhandled Suzuki with a little over four minutes to go in the period and was sent off, but not before he had also tussled with Josh Anderson, attracting an additional pair of penalties for the duo. After some ineffective power play time and the requisite Calgary shorthanded opportunity, Roy had the best play of the man advantage, as he rushed in alone and beat the defenders to get a legitimate scoring chance on Wolf.

7) As the Habs maintained pressure after the penalty, they replicated what worked for Calgary’s opening goal: Savard took a slap shot from the top of the circle and found the top-left corner of the net while Wolf was still trying to look for the puck through the traffic. 3-2 Calgary and it actually looked like the Habs might still be in with a chance.

8) After the hot start to the second period, the Flames almost repeated in the third, with what effectively turned into a three-on-two rush, but Coleman could not handle the pass to put it past Primeau. However, things still went sideways for the bleu blanc et rouge, as Slafkovsky was called for goaltender interference 55 seconds in. And it took the Flames all of six seconds to score after that, as Nazem Kadri skated to the front of the net–Mike Matheson did not look to be paying attention–and turned a pass from Huberdeau into the net to get Calgary two goals ahead again.

9) Primeau gave up another big rebound three minutes later, and this time it was Daniil Miromanov who was there, whacking the puck into the net to give the Flames a clear 5-2 lead. Goaltending coach Eric Raymond will need to be working with Primeau on that rebound control this season and next. Samuel Montembeault has improved on this, and hopefully, Primeau can address this as well.

10) Gallagher and Evans converged on Wolf shortly after that to try to poke a loose puck into the net, but the Calgary defenders piled on him–literally–while Wolf scooped up the puck. Wolf turned Suzuki away several times as well, as the goaltending turned out to be the difference in this game, too, albeit not in Montreal’s favour this time. Outshot and out-chanced, the Flames nevertheless took the win on their home ice.

HW Habs 3 Stars

First Star: David Savard (1g, 0a, 2 shots, +1, 17:46 TOI) was a rock again, playing alongside Arber Xhekaj. He scored the Habs’ second goal, but was no slouch on defence either. Just before scoring the goal, he stripped the Calgary rush of the puck, taking away what looked to have been a dangerous scoring chance for the Flames.

Second Star: Joshua Roy (0g, 0a, 2 shots, -1, 14:16 TOI) had two strong power play scoring chances, but Wolf, playing an excellent game, turned both of them away. The second line, including Alex Newhook and Joel Armia, looked good again.

Third Star: Jordan Harris (0g, 0a, 2 shots, +0, 17:36 TOI) played a strong game alongside Jayden Struble, albeit not always against the strongest opposition. Harris gets the star over Struble not having taken a penalty in the game.