It’s always good to see a solid effort rewarded with a victory, and that’s exactly what we saw on Thursday night in Montreal as the Calgary Flames earned their first ‘W’ of the season, 4-1 over the Canadiens. After a strong opening frame, the Flames did a nice job making life difficult on the Habs for the final 40 minutes, not allowing the goal for the final 58 odd minutes of the hockey game.
Bad luck hurt the Flames early, thanks to a Cory Sarich broken stick at the point. Trying to direct the puck towards the net, Sarich snapped his twig and it lead to an odd man rush the other way; after Max Pacioretty missed the net with a shot, the puck took a friendly bounce off the end boards to Andrei Kostitsyn who would pot his first at 1:47. Calgary stayed the course however, drew a penalty and drew even at 7:15; on the powerplay Alex Tanguay fed a gorgeous pass to a wide open Rene Bourque in the right circle. Bourque’s perfectly placed shot was good for his second of the season and a tie game. A powerplay about four minutes later saw Niklas Hagman score his first of the season, taking a nice feed from behind the net from Olli Jokinen at 11:38 for Calgary’s first lead of the game. They’d extend that 14:54 thanks to a nice breakout play. A long lead pass was directed nicely at the offensive blueline by Jarome Iginla to Tanguay, who would eventually feed David Moss untouched who was good for his first on the year. A 10-7 scoring chance differential helped the Flames to a 3-1 lead after 20.
The second period was another decent one for the Flames, as even though they allowed 14 shots on net, there wasn’t a ton generated by Montreal of the "ten bell" variety. When the Habs did make things happen, Miikka Kiprusoff was up to the challenge, as he played a solid game in net. Calgary would score the game’s final tally at 13:23 of the middle frame as Matt Stajan took a shot that was stopped initially by Carey Price. As the rebound went behind the net, Stajan would try to hammer home the rebound, but it was Bourque who would get the job done for his second of the night. Chances were 8-4 Montreal in the second, but as mentioned, Kiprusoff was strong.
Up by three, the Flames played a sterling third period I felt. While they allowed 12 shots on net, it was a lot of perimeter and outside shots as Calgary allowed only one scoring chance in the final frame, period. That included a Montreal powerplay and an entire 20 minutes where they should have been chasing, so well done on the Flames front. Also well done on the Kiprusoff front, as he became Calgary’s all time winningest goaltender, passing Mike Vernon with his 263rd career win.
One Good Reason…
…why the Flames won? Because they played a fairly complete hockey game. After a strong first period, Calgary did a good job of stemming the Montreal tide, knowing they’d be playing the score in the second period. While the Habs generated 8 scoring chances in the second period, I felt the Flames were in control the whole way through, and their third period was exactly what they needed to do.
I loved David Moss on this night, as I felt he and Tanguay drove the top line against Montreal. Moss had a number of chances to score, and ended up potting one, his first of the season. Moss is a consistent hockey player and while he may not be the ideal choice to centre the Iginla line, he does the job and did the job Thursday against the Habs.
Sum It Up
Montreal was a beat up, thinly stretched hockey game and the Flames took full advantage of that, and good on them. Calgary got pucks behind the depth-lacking Habs blueline and forced some turnovers. Even though they didn’t get a ton of shots, they controlled the puck for the most part, and did a very strong job locking the game down in the third period. Toronto will be an interesting test to finish the road trip on Saturday night, because they are a much improved team and probably a little better than this current incarnation of the Canadiens.