The Calgary Flames went to Montreal on Thursday evening looking to build on a couple decent games against Philadelphia and Toronto. They looked like a group playing their second game in as many nights, and they probably wish they had played a tighter defensive game in front of their backup goaltender. That said, the Flames battled back from blowing a lead and having to chase in the third period. They forced overtime and managed to get a win in a building (and city) that is historically not too friendly to visiting teams.
But the Flames have often had success in Montreal. Thursday night was no exception, as the Flames earned a 3-2 overtime victory over the Canadiens.
The opening period of this game was vintage Flames hockey. In the sense that the Flames scored first but managed to blow their lead (a) quickly and (b) with a goal allowed late in the period. After Carey Price stopped a Mark Giordano point shot through traffic, Sean Monahan grabbed the loose puck and banked a wrist shot off Price’s back to make it 1-0. It wasn’t pretty, but it counted. But the Habs answered back 125 seconds later with their own ugly goal, as Daniel Carr bonked the puck off David Rittich’s mask and in to tie the game at 1-1. Shots were 13-9 Montreal and scoring chances were 9-9.
Montreal was really sharp in the second period, while the Flames were up to their old tricks of failing to clear the defensive zone and losing the puck at the offensive blueline. After a sequence where the Flames failed to clear the puck four times – including a clearing pass that went off a linesman and bounced into the slot – the Flames coughed the puck up in the neutral zone and gave up an odd-man rush. Their tired defenders failed to guard against a really nice Max Pacioretty pass from the side boards – I’m still trying to figure out what Giordano was doing on the play – and Phillip Danault tipped the puck past Rittich to make it 2-1. Shots were 13-10 Flames, but chances were 12-4 Montreal.
Faced with coming home with just one point from their road trip, the Flames put together a decent push in the third period. Off a scrambley play walking out from the back of the net, Garnet Hathaway jammed in a rebound past Price. On the ice it was initially blown down and called no-goal. The on-ice officials had a meeting and said there was goalie interference, as Hathaway had gone into the crease to chase the puck. But Glen Gulutzan challenged the call and it was ruled a good goal – the rules say you can go into the crease to battle for a loose puck if the puck is there before the pursuing player is – and that made the game 2-2. The Flames had a five-on-three power play with seven minutes left, but for some reason they didn’t have much urgency or Dougie Hamilton on the ice, so the two-man advantage led to nothing. Shots were 12-12 but chances were 7-5 Habs.
It was off to overtime! Each team had a chance or two, but Johnny Gaudreau found Monahan waltzing into Montreal’s zone as the trailer on a two-on-two rush and Monahan beat Price with a nifty wrister to make it a 3-2 final for the visitors. Shots were 2-1 Flames.
Why The Flames Won
This was a really tight game and the top six on each team basically cancelled each other out. The Flames’ depth players – their bottom six and third pairings – were better than Montreal’s, and that was enough to overcome some shaky defensive play by the Flames at various times throughout this game.
This will sound odd considering that Monahan had two goals, but I’m going with a joint award to that third pairing. Stone and Kulak were buried in the defensive zone most of the game, but led the team in possession and were part of the third period push that led to the game-tying goal.
The Turning Point
Hathaway’s goal swung things towards Calgary and, more importantly, forced overtime.
Glen Gulutzan’s reaction to the challenge result was a thing of beauty.
(Percentage stats are 5-on-5, data via Corsica.hockey)
This and That
The Flames are now 2-0-0 in games where Matthew Tkachuk is suspended. Coincidentally, both were road games with multiple Sean Monahan goals where the Flames won in overtime.
The Flames (15-12-2) fly home tonight and are off tomorrow. They’ll host the Vancouver Canucks in the late game on Hockey Night in Canada on Saturday night.